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Unexpected Involvement

Chapter Text

Frustration was the only word in the English language that Steeljaw felt could begin to do justice to his current state. It was hardly satisfactory, as frustration was typically not the word that came to mind when one was shredding metal just to escape the stress, but he really didn't need anyone to know the specifics of his condition.

It was heat, plain and simple. He knew his body well enough to recognize the urges by now, annoying and debilitating as they were. And while such inconvenient cycles may have been intrinsic to all life from his home world, he felt that his particular case was notably more difficult. He was a Wolficon, and by his very nature said things tended to make him very... feral, when nature decided it was his time. Even now, sealed within the cool, calm confines of his quarters, he could feel his primal urges pulsing. The collected mind of a strategic leader was faint in the wake of his burning, agonizing need. His thoughts swam, but lingered over the tantalizing images of the activity that would bring him relief. Rocking bodies, intertwined legs, scraping metal...

No!

He snarled and dug deep scores into the pavement. He could not afford such mindless distractions at this critical time. Dropping on all fours, he paced about the dark room like a caged dog, trying to shake the tension from his cables. It was only recently that he'd managed to grow his army to a decent size, and he needed a clear processor to control the often less than cooperative soldiers beside him. Primus knew how fatal infighting had proved to the Decepticons... And he needed to keep a keen eye and ear open at all times. Some of them may eventually prove loyal, beyond the usual opportunistic nature of their kind. Thunderhoof was already proving eager to work. Perhaps he'd be equally eager to serve? 

"Weak fool!" he hissed aloud, taking his helm into his hands as he shifted to his knees. Even the brief consideration had sent tingles down his strut and to the fork of his legs.

"No more... No more..." he whispered to himself in a vow. There was no time for this! There were things he needed to attend to, and the brief time he'd already taken to gather his thoughts was too much. He needed to be out and working.

But at that moment, his body no longer cared for his duties. Its needs had been ignored for far too long, and it demanded satisfaction. Heat began radiating from his panel like a fire, the overworked components beneath burning for a release that he had no choice but to give. Whimpering like a youngling at the pain and discomfort, the mech reluctantly submitted and opened his valve covering, exposing himself to the cool air. 

Heated lubricants oozed from the permanently aroused valve, making him shudder as they were exposed to the drafty room. A sense of shame filled him as he dropped a hesitant claw to his entrance, which was quickly overcome by the lightning bolt of pain and pleasure that came from a simple stroke of the metalmesh folds. Propping himself on one arm, he gasped aloud as he tried to massage his way to the anterior node, the overcharged sensors of his valve screaming at him all the while. By Primus, he'd never felt such a torturous or intoxicating mix of pleasure and pain...

"Ahh!" he gasped aloud when he found the sweet spot, his entire body spasming into his hand as it sought the sweet freedom of release. Trembling like a leaf, he went full force on the exposed and tortured node, using his own generous lubricants to speed his touch. Soft cries escaped his muzzle as he worked, every ounce of the proud leader gone as he satisfied the most primal of his needs. Touching his forehelm to the floor, the mech assumed the position for mounting, spreading his hind legs and lifting his tail for easier access. He didn't care who might walk in at that moment, if anyone, so long as they may be tempted to take him from behind. His valve was more than ready, his claws were sliding over it with ease, and the fluid was dribbling down his thighs and dripping to the floor in its over abundance.

No longer able to handle the overload of auxiliary pleasure, his spike popped free of its own accord, dribbling transfluid from its swollen tip. Snarling, Steeljaw used his free arm to take the member into his hand, using his broad shoulders to keep him propped in the aft up position. A full moan slipped from his muzzle as he took the throbbing spike into his other hand, the dual pleasure from both of his stimulated organs almost overwhelming him into shutdown. He found a sloppy but suitable rhythm in no time, thrusting his hips into his hands to simultaneously pleasure both his demanding spike and valve.

The first tingles of the promise of release began to form up in his port, making him double his efforts on the fully engorged node beneath his fingers. At that moment, the image of Thunderhoof behind him became the most tempting fantasy he was capable of conjuring. The powerful mech was one of the few who matched him in physical strength, and the idea of being absolutely dominated so close to his peak was a more than tempting fantasy. He could only imagine a broad, thick spike sliding inside of his eager valve, stretching him and finally appeasing all of the sensory units too deep to reach. The mech behind him would form a rhythm in no time, sliding out only to hammer back in with enough force to make their armor spark, making him cry out as he increased his tempo to form the friction necessary to push them both over the edge...

"Ahh-haa!"

The straggled cry escaped his vocalizer as he finally reached his peak in a rush, his port clamping in a rhythmic and almost violent overload that sent stars exploding before his optics. A few clumsy pumps of his spike gave it the push it needed to do the same, a gush of transfluid firing from the tip and arcing to the floor in messy spurts. His tongue lolled like a dog as he rode on the waves of pure carnal bliss and sweet, simple relief, the aftershocks of his peak pulsing through his body in one long moment of satisfaction.

And then that moment ended.

Reality came back to find him collapsed on the floor, covered in his own fluids and with his aft still in the air. It took a moment for him to find the strength to lift his head from the floor and attempt to right himself, subconsciously dropping his tail to cover himself as trembling arms pushed him onto his hands and knees. 

Deep and unfathomable shame filled him as he returned to a clear state of mind, his lower half still dripping onto the now fluid stained floor.

"Weak." he spat at himself, forcing his still exhausted body to stand. To give in so completely to his body, to be reduced to nothing but a dog in heat, begging for domination... His spark wrenched in absolute humiliation. Grabbing some towels that he kept around his room, he sat beside his mess and began to clean both it and himself.

This was but a moment of weakness Steeljaw. You cannot indulge yourself any further. He'd powered through these cycles before, and he could no doubt to it again. This... release would enable him to face his subordinates more easily, no doubt. Even Thunderhoof. He knew that his fantasies had been nothing more than instinct taking over at the moment of near release, and that they certainly didn't reflect any desires of his own. 

When he was satisfied that none would ever find a trace of his ordeal, he took but a moment to gather himself before leaving. The day would be long and hard, but he was certain that he could get through without incident, and that nothing further would come of his condition.

Chapter Text

Steeljaw pushed his way up the mountain and through the thick forests growth with a half sparked snarl of irritation, his fixation on his current task helping to quell his frustrations. The planets fauna may have been a hefty impedance, but he was making good progress to his goal, especially with his keen senses acting as a guide. With luck, he'd have a new soldier by the end of the day, or at least a start on where to find one. 

Finding himself in a clearing, he paused to shake the accumulated twigs and leaves from his armor niches. As useful as this planet was proving for his plans, he would never grow accustomed to the prickly nature of its forests. A rather large part of him still longed for the crystalline trees on Cybertron; great, towering structures of shining metal and crystal that intertwined together in a confusing labyrinth. He'd often used them to his advantage during the war, luring in inexperienced Autobots and striking from the twisted, reflective shadows... 

Nostalgia. Such a time waster. He needed to be focused.

Setting off into the brush, he quickly picked up the scent of his target; an opened escape pod. The pods reeked of the chemically sterile environment of the prison ship, which was like a beacon for his olfactory receptors amidst the organic odors of the forest. It was not long after that he saw a glimmer through the trees, and the sound of running water greeted him as he emerged to find his prize resting in a shallow creek. A sense of satisfaction filled him at the sight, right up until he saw the torn off seal immediately indicating an escape.

Empty. A shame. 

Stepping down into the creek bed, he inspected the cracked open shell for evidence of its occupants stature. The deep claw marks and huge dents suggested an impressive warrior well worth recruiting, but the recent rains likely ensured that any hope of tracking them was lost.

Where might you be, brother? he pondered to himself, lifting his head to scan the surroundings. There was no evidence of tracks or disturbed vegetation, but he did spot an unexpected object of interest. Upstream, where the trees thinned approaching the rockier slopes of the mountain, he spotted the mouth of a cave on the stony creek side just large enough for a bot of his size.

On the strangest of whims, he abandoned the pod and approached, knowing that he'd find nothing but still feeling compelled to investigate nonetheless. The opening was just large enough for a bot his size to squeeze through, but the inside widened to a considerably more manageable volume, enough that he could curl up inside quite comfortably.

He felt a strange sense of ease at the thought of doing just that. With adequate bedding, he'd likely be even more safe and comfortable than he was in his own berth. How nice that'd be, a safe, private space for himself; an ideal nest to settle down, with the contended chirps of little ones at his side-

"What're ya doin?"

The accept laden prompt snapped the day dreaming wolf from his stupor to find a familiar, antlered figure standing over him.

"Thunderhoof." he rasped quite unprofessionally, swallowing down his surprise to regain his commanding tone. "What are you doing here?"

"Yous asked me to meet you here an drag the pod back." Thunderhoof replied, shaking a branch from his antlers as he pressed further. "But again, what are yous doin?"

"Searching for its occupant." Steeljaw answered as smoothly as he could manage. Humiliated that he'd let himself drift off out in the open, particularly in front of Thunderhoof of all bots, the wolf hardly felt comfortable remaining in his presence any longer. He needed to escape, before his body's urges betrayed his better judgement once more.

"I've managed to pick up a trail. You can expect me at base by nightfall, potentially with a new follower. See to it that the pods parts are salvaged." he clipped, fully intending to just get as much distance between them as possible. 

Thunderhoof narrowed his optics at the reply, tilting his helm suspiciously and igniting a sense of panic inside Steeljaw as he feared further questioning. The astute mob boss was just as skilled at detecting deceit as he was, and any slip ups could lead to a shift in their power balance...

"Alright."

Steeljaw felt his spark settle in absolute relief at the reply, watching the other turn to retrieve the pod without any further comment. He must have been getting paranoid in his state, Thunderhoof likely didn't expect a thing. Still, best not to tempt fate. He left the creek and aimed his path upward, disappearing back into the forest and leaving the other behind. On a whim, he looked back once to ensure that Thunderhoof completed his task, getting a good vantage point through the trees. 

The taller mech lifted the great pod with nothing more than a quick grunt, his broad, powerful shoulders easily taking the burden and supporting it with ease as he turned back the way he'd come.

Seeing such an immense show of power stirred something inside of him, though he was quick to smash the feeling before it could grow too powerful. Turning tail and pushing up the mountain, Steeljaw did his best to focus on exercise, hoping that exertion might quell his bodies needs. 

Not needs. Desires. He reminded himself, pushing to a run as the trees thinned out. Your body is making demands. And you will not submit.

Primus knew that wasn't easy though. The relief he'd bought himself that morning was fading, and the pestering thoughts and urges were beginning to crawl through his processor once more. Thunderhoof in particular kept finding his way into his thoughts. To his credit, the mech was certainly worth the consideration. That tall, powerful frame didn't happen by accident; he no doubt had some fantastic coding to offer his potential offspring.

Realizing that he was once more thinking about sparklings, Steeljaw felt a cold worm of disgust settle in his gut. Carrying was not something he personally desired now or ever; were he to breed, he'd seek out a partner to do the task for him. He'd seen what it did to the body and the mind firsthand when his own carrier had birthed a second litter after he'd been born, and the once ruthless crime leader had spent years holed up and nurturing her brood. There was no time now or ever for such things in his life, regardless of what their species faltering numbers demanded.

At least I have secrecy. He reminded himself. That did bring some comfort. His cohorts were not of his kind, and thus not programmed to be receptive to his current state. It was probably the first time he'd been thankful that there wasn't another like him amongst the pack, for they would be able to detect his frames chemical cues with a single sniff. His current teammates lacked his powerful senses, but suddenly he wondered; what if it was more obvious than he thought? Curious, he stopped to inspect himself, breathing deeply to get a clear scent.

Accustomed as he was to his own scent, he was still able to detect the sharp aroma of pheromones radiating from his body, but it was probably far too weak for his subordinates to catch. If anything, it was more embarrassing than troubling. His body was advertising its condition to the world in a pathetic plea for relief, and it was happily twisting his thoughts to get what it wanted. Enough that it had actually made him feel physical desire for Thunderhoof. If his cycle had its way, he'd be on his back and begging the mob boss for a hard spiking...

Oh pit, that was not the image he'd needed to clear his head. The Primus be damned heat began to radiate from his panel once more, making him whimper despite himself in discomfort. A fog descended over his processor, making it hard for him to think through the discomfort that was rapidly turning into pain. Keening softly, he shifted and spread his legs, trying to allow some air flow to cool the rapidly overheating metal. 

Not again. I've indulged you too much already. Clamping his legs closed, he pushed forward into a slow run on all fours, fighting through the pain it caused him. It would probably fade if he was strong enough to ignore it for a time; he just needed to focus on something else, anything else... 

The trail. The mountains. His new territory. Yes, mapping, a simple but fitting distraction in his current state. His innate sense of direction helped him to move easily through the trees whilst he eyed his surroundings, getting a basic idea of the landscape as he went. If he was able, he'd definitely go back to the creek and get a better idea of the caves location in relation to the base. Such a pristine shelter could not be wasted, and his earlier feelings had not faded; the thought of younglings came back to him.

It was odd how clearly the thought came to him, almost like a memory he didn't have. The warmth of a well bedded den, the comfort of darkness, the scent of sparkling solution and the caress of tiny frames against his exposed belly...

Why had he been do resistant to the thought of carrying? He'd need heirs to his operations, wouldn't he? What better time than now? There was a mech who no doubt would be willing to assist; Cervicons were an instinctually driven breed, Thunderhoof wouldn't turn down the opportunity to interface and breed. He'd need only ask... No, what was he thinking? He was starting a war, and Thunderhoof was his subordinate! He didn't want sparklings with him, or anyone! Why did he keep having these thoughts?! How was his mind able to so deceptively lure him into these thoughts? What if he wasn't able to stop?

"I can't trust myself." he whispered aloud, taking his helm in shaking hands. He needed to lock himself away like the animal his body was forcing him to become. He'd feign illness to the others, and then lock himself within his quarters for the duration of his condition. It was the only way. His mind wasn't fully his own anymore...

Chapter Text

It was growing dark when he made it back to base thanks to his fogged processor throwing off his sense of direction, but in truth that was probably to his favor. Stealth was more easily accomplished at night, and thus he was confident that he'd be able to slip inside and reach his quarters without incident. Or he would have been, if it weren't for a single factor he'd forgotten to take into account. 

Hunger.

In his rush to leave that morning, he'd forgotten to take his ration, and the rather significant amount of exercise he'd undertaken had begun to take its toll. His tanks were empty and constricted, creating a tight pain that he knew was only going to get worse. It would be impossible to last the night in this condition; but it would also be incredibly risky to visit their supply room. Any one of the others could be inside, and he doubted he could trust himself as he was, but still...

It's worth the risk. I can't starve myself in this state.  he concluded, approaching the compound from the unlit secondary entrance. With ears alert, he crept inside on all fours, relieved that there didn't seem to be any sign of activity. It was likely that everyone was asleep or out on assignments; at least something was going his way that day. He'd probably been paranoid to expect an encounter regardless. Why would anyone else be in storage at this hour? Returning to a bipedal stance, he was far more calm as he reached the sealed metal door, salivating as he smelled the energon within and typing in the combination code. The doors whooshed open to reveal the stack of glowing blue cubes and the table in front of them, as well as-

"Aye, Steeljaw."

Primus, why...

With his pedes on the table, Thunderhoof was the picture of calm confidence as he drank from a cube, leaning back far into a thrown together chair with a look of near contentment.

Steeljaw knew that Unicron was laughing at him. And why had he expected any differently? Of course it was too much to ask to be able to quench his hunger without incident.

"T-Thunderhoof." he gasped when he had the strength. A part of him wanted to run and hide from the mech who was unknowingly providing him with so much torment, but he was still coherent enough to know that would be a bad move. Instead, he steeled himself and entered the room, trying desperately to ignore the warmth that was reappearing down low. 

"Fracture took the pod apart. Found some good tech." Thunderhoof said, not bothering to look at him as he went back to retrieve a cube. 

"Hm." Steeljaw grunted in acknowledgement. The sensations he'd felt earlier were nothing compared to the feelings developing now in the mob bosses presence. Any relief he'd given himself that morning was gone, and a fire was starting to form beneath his plating from pure desire. The mech he craved was right there, scented with the exertion coolant of his toils and all but radiating confidence and power. His hands were trembling as he picked a cube from the pile, spark pounding in his chest as he tried to stifle the increasingly overwhelming feeling of want.

"Yous alright?"

The prompt hit him like a wall. No, he wasn't. He was as far from "alright" as one could be. And he wouldn't be better until the other mech was inside of him. Oh how easy it would be, to lay himself on the table and entice the other into action, spreading himself wide and putting an end to his suffering-

"I've taken ill."

The rasped reply was his conscious minds last attempt at saving him. If he were to get out without incident, he knew he'd need to escape, now. Turning with cube in hand, he refused to look at the other as he attempted to leave, trying desperately not to inhale more of the others enticing scent.

"I'll need to remain in my quarters. Disturb me only for matters of utmost importance."

"Yous want me to take charge in the meantime?"

Yes. Take charge of me. Here and now. I know you have the strength, by Primus, show it to me. 

"Fine."

With that one final bark, he was out the door, his head down as he all but fled from the room. He didn't care how unprofessional or suspicious it looked, he needed to escape. Barely having the strength of mind to keep a hold on the cube, he ran the entire length to his quarters and threw the door open upon arrival, stumbling inside and slamming it shut behind him.

The energon cube fell from his hand and clattered against the floor, his hunger entirely forgotten in the wake of a far more pressing need. Collapsing to his knees, he snapped his burning plating aside to expose his valve to the open air, whining at the painful contrast between heated metalmesh and cool draft. Pride forgotten, he dug a digit between the dripping lips and up into his coiled, throbbing port, desperate to alleviate the burning pain that was tormenting him do.

"Ahhh... Ahhhnnn... Ngh!" 

He was reduced to a trembling, moaning mess as he thrusted his fingers as deep as he could manage, his fluids dribbling down his thighs and coating his claws as he worked.

"Thunderhoof..." he whispered, mind still swimming with images of his most recent encounter. He wanted so badly to go back and find the other mech again, just to get relief for real. They'd mate, he'd likely kindle, and his body would finally know relief...

The thought alone triggered his overload, which came as more of of an electrical surge and a release of tension than a burst of pleasure. He spasmed into his hand with a choked cry that tapered off to a whine, thrusting his hips until his energy left and he could only tremble. Panting, he let himself sink to the floor in a heap, not minding the sticky mess betwixt his legs. With his clean hand, he pulled the cube back and broke the seal, shakily lifting his head so that he could lap in the much needed fuel. There was a lingering twinge of shame at his actions, but he was too tired to pay it much mind.

It doesn't matter anyway. You're holding out. That's what matters. Pride is inconsequential. He knew that tomorrow would be even harder; this session had barely brought him anything like the relief of the first. His body still drummed with need, but it was far too tired to make him try anything. The exercise had payed off, it seemed.

Finishing off his meal, he dragged himself over and onto the berth, curling up with his tail over his nose like a pup. He really didn't care how immature it looked, comfort was in short supply at the moment. Closing his optics and trying to ignore the tremble in his joints, Steeljaw let his exhaustion claim him, eager for the several hour release that sleep would bring him.

------ 

"Steeljaw..."

At the sound of his name, Steeljaw twitched his ears and cracked open his optics, closing them again when two bright, glowing red orbs hurt his sensitive receptors. He was entirely ready to slip back into darkness when his designation was repeated far more firmly, forcing him to come fully into awareness and find himself looking up at a familiar antlered visage.

"Steeljaw."

"Thunderhoof?" he gasped. Trying to roll out from beneath the other on the berth, he found his wrists pinned by strong hands. The mob boss chuckled at the look on his face, and only offered a sarcastic pleasantry. 

"Evenin' Boss."

"You... What are you doing-?"

"Night's still young and I'm not really feelin' like hitting the berth just yet. Figured I'd drop by to burn a little fuel..." he drifted off as he leaned in to deliver a nip to Steeljaws sensitive ears, drawing out a whimper as he brought out his glossa and lavished the sensitive crests adorning his helm.

"I... You... Ngh..." Steeljaw was incoherent with confused arousal. Thunderhoof was on top of him, pleasuring him in a way that was typically reserved for mates, and acting as if nothing was unusual about it. Maybe he was in a cycle as well? Maybe he was just in the mood? Truth be told, he really didn't care.

Thunderhoof pulled back and freed one of Steeljaws wrists, using his unoccupied hand to tilt the wolfs helm for optic contact as he spoke with a rare grin. "Only if yous would be up to that."

Steeljaw stared like a processor dead drone before he barked out the only possible answer. 

"Yes."

Thunderhoof was on him in that instant; pulling him up to crash their lips together in an almost passionate kiss. Steeljaw forgot everything he ever knew about propriety at that moment, wagging his tail in full as he reciprocated the kiss and arched upward to close the distance between them. Powerful hands released his wrists and began to wander over his frame, finding all of the fantastically sensitive creases in his armor and digging in to delight the nodes that dwelled there. 

Steeljaw felt his plating retract on its own and expose his valve once more, the metalmesh lips already slick and ready for the others spike. 

"Eager, aren't ya?" Thunderhoof teased when he noticed of the display. Steeljaw only whined and arched himself upward, too lost in the needs of his cycle to fully articulate what he desired. Thankfully the other was more than capable of understanding, sitting back on his heels and sliding a broad digit right over the erect and waiting pleasure bud. The feral whine that greeted the attention stirred Thunderhoof into giving the area far more active attention, his broad fingers circling the eager node to provide the perfect amount of stimulation.

Steeljaw lost himself in absolute euphoria. The others powerful digits were so much more satisfying than his own claws, encouraging him to spread his legs wider in welcoming. His tongue lolled out like a contented dog, his tail wagging in absolute satisfaction until the wonderful touch stopped without warning and he had to look down his belly in utter confusion.

Thunderhoof rested on his knees, hips out and forward to show off the primed and erect spike that was arching upward. Bright blue biolights pulsed with arousal from base to tip, highlighting the power and the more than adequate volume that its owner had to share. "Want this instead?"

Steeljaw nearly wept at the sight. "Please, yes..."

There wasn't a moment of delay before he was pinned beneath the larger bot, Thunderhoofs knees parting his legs to ensure complete access was possible. Steeljaw whined and tried to thrust upward, feeling the rods heat and desperate to have it inside him. The Cervicon was tortuously slow to follow through, aligning himself yet making it perfectly clear that he was in no hurry. He finally began to push forward and settle the tip right and the slick and eager valves entrance, driving the wolf crazy as he felt the pressure and the heat. His receptors rejoiced when the metalmesh lips were finally parted, the long awaited rod tip finally going deeper, stretching him wider, pushing him to the edge-

The lurch he felt as he slipped over the edge of the bed was his welcome back to a harsh reality, his optics snapping open as he caught himself just before he hit the floor. Coolant dripped down his forehelm and hot air whooshed through his open vents as he processed the rapid shift. 

A dream? 

Only a dream?

It had been so real. He'd never experienced anything like it. His body was still overwhelmed from the sensations; his limbs trembling, his valve overflowing, and his armor burning with the heat of arousal. The hormones in his veins were raging from the broken promise of release, making him feel like he was caught in the center of a violent storm. Reeling, he slid to the floor in a trembling heap, feeling like he might purge.

Tears were welling up in his optics. For relief to have been so close, to have felt so real, only to be snatched away. Primus it wasn't fair. Why was he being made to suffer so? No other cycle had affected him so harshly, why was this different? He was still burning from helm to heel strut, his ventilations still coming in hard and ragged; and yet he was stilk aroused. Even now he was pining for Thinderhoof; his valve clenching hard and begging for a hard fragging, his spark swelling in a rare plea for a merge, his rarely used array sparking from overcharge-

"No more."

He whispered as if submitting to whatever force was tormenting him so, even if he knew that there was no one to blame. His limit had been reached, and that was all that mattered. The resignation gave him the strength to stand, and it was on trembling supports that he hobbled out of his room. Reason was dead to him at that moment, but he still worked over a fragmented plan as he moved, more out of habit than need.

He'll be in his room. I need only wake him. To the Pit with explanations, I'll do whatever it takes to finish this. 

His steps were quick, almost desperate, as he closed the gap to his destination. He didn't know what Thunderhoof would do when he was woken, but if Primus was willing, he'd be too eager for a frag to ask many questions. And if he was reluctant, he'd play whatever part he needed to play; domineering leader, casual fragger, begging heat rattled submissive...

The door handle was in his claws and being pulled before he could continue, the entrance sliding open swiftly but still quietly enough not to wake the occupant. However, Steeljaw had no time to take advantage of his stealth before a far louder sound surprised him from within.

"I was wondering when yous was gonna show up."

Chapter Text

I was wondering when yous was gonna show up. 

Steeljaw froze in the doorway like a deer in headlights, his spark pounding as he found himself staring at a very relaxed, confident Thunderhoof sitting back in his berth. The mob boss had his hands behind his helm and one knee bent to the ceiling, a look of pure smugness on his face as eyed the other mech. 

"Want to come on in?" Thunderhoof invited, speaking more like a cocky, pubescent youngling than a grown criminal.

"I... You..." Steeljaw could only stutter, barely able to find his voice and entirely unable to move his legs. The other chuckled to himself, getting off the berth and standing to his full, far more impressive height. He took great care to radiate power as he approached, puffing out his broad chest and holding his brilliant antler crown high as he looked down on the flabbergasted wolf.

"Did yous really think I wouldn't notice? You've been eyeing me up like a hungry dog since this mornin'."

"That-"

Thunderhoof cut off any possibility of alternative explanation, putting his hoof down and standing even taller. "And, I can smell those hormones from a mile away. Wolficons ain't the only breed with a decent sense o' smell."

Steeljaw felt his spark shrivel in fear, unsure of exactly where the other was going and far too heat addled to try and think ahead. Thunderhoof put a hand on the door frame and leaned down to the others optic level, the return of his smirk and his following statement leaving no question as to what he intended.

"And fortunately, I'm willing to help yous out." Tilting his helm in an invitational gesture, he moved back to enable the other entrance. Wondering if he was still in a dream, Steeljaw complied, entering the sparse quarters and hearing the door slide shut behind him. Mulling over the others words, he finally began to understand, particularly the fact that he probably wasn't going to need to do much convincing.

"Do you mean that you're willing...?"

His question was greeted with an audible snort, and he realized that the answer was admittedly rather obvious. "You might say that. But under one condition." With his hands on his hips, Thunderhoof leaned down again, sounding far cockier than was fitting for a professional.

"Inside this room, I call all the shots. Are we clear?"

Hormone addled as he was, Steeljaw didn't miss the very deliberate use of his own words, though he was far too desperate to be that offended. Finally letting himself open up, all he could do was relish in the others presence. Such power and cunning, what beautiful codes he could pass on to his offspring...

"Very well." he replied, a shiver passing down his spinal strut at the acceptance and turning to a tingle that teased beneath his plating.

Thunderhoof wasted no time, swooping in with the ease of preparation and taking Steeljaw by the wrists before pinning him roughly, but not harshly, against the wall. Such a sudden show of dominance reignited the heat under his plating, and he found himself quivering in the others grasp. Thunderhoof may not have been in heat, but he could still smell the musk of a very aroused mech radiating off his armor, and it drove Steeljaw wild. 

"Your spark." Thunderhoof commanded, immediately letting him know just how much he wanted to dominate this encounter. Such a demand in this situation was only given by a master to their submissive, and Steeljaw was more than happy to comply, giving up all control and opening himself up. A light blue spark pulsed in the dim light from its vibrating chamber, bobbing slightly from its owners increasingly deep and heated ventilations. Thunderhoof observed the glowing orb with satisfaction, relishing in the very near forgotten sensation of being the one in charge. His high and mighty leader was exposed and primed before him, growing increasingly heated by the moment but unable to reach completion until his say so. It was rewarding enough for Thunderhoof, but Steeljaw quickly found himself growing hot and needy for more.

"Can we... move this..."

"Not yet." Thunderhoof said, keeping his wrists high above his head in a single hand. With his other, he traced a finger over the wolfs spark chamber, delighting one of the most receptive areas on the Cybertronian body. Steeljaw gasped in surprise, pinning his ears back and squeezing his optics shut as the intimate touch sent shock waves through the entirety of his neural net. A blue blush lit up his face as he became overwhelmed, his legs threatening to collapse and his digits curling in delight. The wonderful twist however, that Thunderhoof was acutely aware of, was that no amount of physical spark stimulation could trigger an overload, only drive him maddeningly close to the sensation of release. Still, as fun as the others reactions were to watch, he didn't want to risk pushing him into overdrive. He could already see tiny sparks jumping over Steeljaws metal from excessive charge, best to take care of that before they started to become dangerous.

Steeljaw let out a shaky sigh as his spark was finally released, cracking open his optics to see Thunderhoof popping open the cable slot on his shoulder and pulling out his neural cord. The sight literally made him wag his tail in delight; cord overloads were easy and cheap, feeling more like a pleasantly tingly surge of energy than a euphoric release, but he was far too desperate to be picky. He had to hold back a whimper as his own patch was opened, the mob boss continuing to play the controller and plugging his cord into Steeljaws receptive port. 

A surge overcame Steeljaw as their neural nets merged, Thunderhoofs dominance coming clear through the link as powerful pulses that filled him from head to heel strut. He panted openly as his body began to heat up, his hips thrusting forward in a mechanical response to the electrical currents Thunderhoof was sending through them. Even the other was finding himself a little overwhelmed, his ventilations quickening as their charges began to build and reach overload capacity. Steeljaws spark was visibly reacting to the pleasure, it surface becoming dotted with bright flashes of energy like miniature solar flares.

Thunderhoof decided that he'd had enough of the warm up round, and immediately set his processor to finishing them off. Closing his optics in concentration, he enjoyed the last of the pleasant but hardly overwhelming pulses, grunting as he finally built up the charge and spasming once as it hit him. Steeljaw yelped through the overload, going rigid in his dominants grasp before collapsing with a drained but satisfied smile. The mob boss took a quick ventilation to steady himself and refocus, steadying his charge as he released him and trying to keep the excitement from his voice as he looked to the berth.

"Now that I'm nice and warmed up, we can get to the good stuff..."

At that, Steeljaw was immediately primed for another overload, and he was on the berth in the blink of an optic. Nearly feral with lust for what he'd come for, he rolled onto his back and spread his legs, looking to the other with downturned ears and a begging smile. Thunderhoof had to fight back a fit of laughter at the sight. What would Steeljaw do if he could see himself now, begging like an earth mutt for a stomach scratch? The complete submission was admittedly a pleasant turn on, and one he'd planned to use to the fullest.

"Not yet. First yous gotta do something for me." he said. With his hands on his hips, he retracted his panel and let his spike swing upward. Steeljaw was immediately able to see what was required of him, and as eager as he was for his end, he was still playing the loyal submissive to its fullest. He sat up and moved into position at the edge of the low set berth, going on his knees as he prepared to receive. Thunderhoof felt an almost feral surge of dominance at the sight, and he had to fight to restrain himself from shoving his spike down the others throat. It was quite a surprising turn when Steeljaw began without need for guidance, opening his mouth wide and guiding the length inside until his muzzle tip was at the base.

Thunderhoof tilted his helm back with a sigh as he felt the soft, wet heat. He'd been concerned about the teeth at first, but it was quite clear now that Steeljaw knew what he was doing. A very dexterous glossa massaged the ridged underside as the wolf began to pull back, sucking the length as he began to bob his helm and form a rhythm. He was more than eager to lavish attention on the gorgeous appendage, relishing in how its generous size stretched his pipe and filled the entirety of his oral cavity. Salivating with desire, he tried to remain patient and not torture himself with images of what the spike would soon be doing to him. 

"Aw Pit..." Thunderhoof whispered under his ventilations, looking up to the ceiling. He hadn't planned on overloading from this, but mostly because he hadn't expected it to be so good. Why not indulge a little? They had all night to go for real, after all. Putting his hand behind Steeljaws helm, he guided him into a more suitable rhythm, gently bucking his hips into the marvelously inviting oral cavity. A soft glossa swirled about his tip, suckling and teasing in time to the thrustings until he grunted at his completion. A wonderful burst betwixt his legs preceded a rush of euphoria through his entire body, his cable throbbing as his code rich fluids shot from him in powerful spurts. Steeljaw withdrew as the warm and gooey transfluid began to gush, letting it splatter on his muzzle and feeling a touch of loss at the waste of such precious fluids. Thunderhoof actually found himself panting as he came back from the high, and he was more than pleased to look down and see a sticky muzzled Steeljaw looking up at him.

"Not bad." he rasped, pulling back to grab some of the towels he'd laid out earlier. Rubbing himself off, he tossed another to the wolf, eager to have him prepped for the next part. "Now clean yourself off. I've got work to do."

Steeljaw eagerly did as he was bid, unable to hide his excitement as Thunderhoof came back to the berth. Was this it? Would the tight knot of tension inside of him finally be released? Working the other had him riled up enough that he could feel lubricants leaking from his panel, as well as a painful tightness inside of his valve. Oh Primus, how he wanted release...

"Aft up." Thunderhoof commanded, sounding like he'd given the order countless times before. Shivering, Steeljaw turned on the berth, retracted his plating, lifted his tail, and presented himself without shame or hesitation. Cold air against his hot, wet entrance almost made him whimper, and he had to bite his lip in restraint as he tried to be patient.

"Eager, aren't yous?" Thunderhoof teased, settling his hands on the bared thighs. Pleased with how the armor trembled under his digits, he massaged his way up the leaking valve that was waiting for him, taking his time and loving how Steeljaw was clearly struggling to remain still. He took but a moment to admire and inspect the dripping valve that was waiting for him, watching the clear fluid glow a dim blue as it began to trickle downward. He finally took a thumb and pressed it flat over the overheated lips, chuckling as his partner flinched and openly whimpered at the touch. With the ample lubrication, he glided over the soft metalmesh, working his way up to the hard and erect bud that was waiting for him. He was almost amazed at how much lubrication was still seeping out of the port as he worked up to the sweet spot, oozing out visibly from the countless weeping nodes. 

"Thunderhoof!" Steeljaw gasped as his tormented bud was finally hit, arching his back and digging his claws in to the edge of the berth. He let his tongue loll out as slow, heavenly circles were traced around the incredibly sensitive sweet spot, his entire valve coming alive at the stimulation. Pushing himself back against the marvelously skillful hand, he whimpered as the tight coiling of an overload began to build far too quickly for his liking. He knew why, it was because this wasn't what he really needed. He needed that spike deep inside of him, pumping out transfluids to fill his fertile reproduction chamber-

"Ahhh!" 

He cried out as two digits pushed as deep as they could manage inside his valve, pressing up against his internal node cluster to ignite a blast of stars before his optics. Steeljaw nearly whited out as his overload hit him immediately, his port squeezing like a vice around the digits as he rocked back against the stimulation in time to his spasms. 

"Nice n' tight, just how I like it..." Thunderhoof commented as he watched the other writhe. He couldn't move his digits from the valve, not even with all of the excess lubrication to help him. Primus, he couldn't wait to do this for real... The scent of a valve in the prime of its cycle drove him wild, inviting him to do more and priming his spike with a fresh load of transfluid.

His digits were released when the other finally finished, his valve loosening to let out a fresh gush of lubricant that trailed behind the two fingers. The wolf panted like a dog as he laid his helm on the berth, feeling his body recover with surprising speed from the overload in preparation for the real thing. Resetting his legs, he lifted himself on trembling arms, feeling the coil between his legs tensing itself once more.

"I'm ready for more..." Steeljaw rasped, ready but still a little winded from their efforts. 

"That's what I like to hear." Thunderhoof replied, unable to keep the excitement from his voice. Pushing Steeljaw forward on the berth, he sat up on his knees behind him, hugging the others upright tail to his chest in one arm and using the other to take a firm hold of his hips. The position made Steeljaw whine and push his hips back in search of the touch he needed, his energy returning in a flash as his body prepped itself for what it had been waiting for. He could feel the heat of the erect spike just inches behind him, along with the firm grasp on his tail and hip, all hinting at what was about to come...

Thunderhoof admitted to taking it slow when he was actually moving in to penetrate, relishing in every instant of his dominance over his once proud and reserved leader. The wet, inviting heat hardly gave him reason to linger too long though, and he had to bite his lip to keep quiet as his tip made contact. The excessive lubrication and excitement allowed even his ample girth to glide inside, the metalmesh lips parting to give him entrance to the even softer wire lining. Steeljaw opened his mouth wide in a voiceless cry, optics going wide as his long tormented nodes finally got the attention he so craved. The length seemed endless as it entered him in a single, clean stroke, each and every ridge stretching him wider. It felt like an eternity had passed when he hit the base, and by then he was nearly weeping with joy. Still going slow, Thunderhoof took but a moment to enjoy the simple and nearly forgotten sensation of being sheathed, loving how tight and welcoming this particular valve was around him. Hissing, he withdrew until only his head was inside, preparing to start a rhythm he still knew by spark.

Steeljaw actually let himself cry out when the spike was thrusted back inside, his overcharged nodes all but screaming in delight and moderate pain at the friction that was generated. The slowness of the opener was lost for a faster, more suitable rhythm, and he dug his claws back into the berth in preparation. Thunderhoof immediately proved himself to be just as wild and powerful a top as one might expect, snorting through his vents like a charging buck as he began to work himself faster. The scent of pheromones likely wasn't doing anything to quell this inherent drive for dominance in the berth, and both occupants had a touch of ferality as they got further into the act.

The clanging and screeching of clashing armor filled up the tiny berthroom in moments, along with the haggard ventilations of interfacing and the bright flashes of sparking metal. Steeljaw actually found himself grinding backward in time with the thrustings, finding that one of his partners spike ridges lined up perfectly with his exterior node. That aside, Thunderhoof was doing a fantastic job of hitting his internal node as well, his thick shaft gliding over it fast and hard to create nearly overwhelming friction. 

"Ahn... Ah... Thunder... hoof..." Steeljaw panted out between thrustings. His dream was nothing compared to this. This was heaven. His veins were pounding with stimulants and adrenagon as he worked closer to climax, making him more daring and louder. Eventually he was crying out at every thrust, unable to control his vocalizer and just losing himself in the mounting pleasure.

Thunderhoof was hardly any better off. This may have been the first frag he'd had in years, but he knew that it was still a cut above average. Something about their builds just made things feel pretty great down there and all around. Maybe it was because Steeljaw was in heat. Maybe they actually had chemistry. Honestly? He didn't care. All that mattered to him was how good this felt, and how it had the potential to be even better. There was one way to make that happen, and while he knew it was rather risky, he was a little too far gone to really care about that. 

Acting more on instinct than anything, he withdrew entirely and grabbed Steeljaw by the shoulders, ignoring the surprised yelp and flipping him onto his back in a single motion. The two of them locked optics as the wolf stared upward in confusion, his legs spread and lifted wide as he suddenly found himself belly up and empty. Thunderhoof snapped his chest armor back and popped his connection cord from his shoulder, revealing his spark and letting Steeljaw understand in an instant. Tail wagging from excitement, he reopened his own spark casing, arching upward to try and hasten the connection.

Thunderhoof dropped down on all fours and plugged his cord in before dipping his spark downward, close enough to merge but not bond, and setting himself up to start again. He wasted no time slipping his spike back in the others eager valve, restarting the symphony of crashing armor as he began thrusting again. Their sparks immediately began to mingle between them, reaching out to one another with wispy tendrils that interlocked as their merge became stronger. Both of their bodies crackled with charge from their merged and overwhelmed neural nets, making the room smell of ozone as it only continued to build. 

Both bots were a feral, lustful tangle as they were hit with the triple load of pleasure. Steeljaw was barely able to wrap his legs about the others waist. Thunderhoof had to fight to stay inside the overslicked valve at his speed. Their sparks marked the progression of their exertions, flashing faster and brighter with every thrust. They both could feel the coils tightening in their lower bodies, as well as a new sensation of warmth and expansion in their open sparks began to mix into one singular life force unified not by love, but pure, carnal lust.

Their simultaneous overloads came in a literal flash. Their sparks merged in a blinding white light as their bodies coiled together in an indistinguishable tangle of limbs. Electricity sparked from their neural nets and singed their armor, but the pain was inconsequential to both. Steeljaw felt the entirety of his port ignite in an unparalleled overload, his muzzle tearing open in a howl as his cabling rippled around the sheathed spike and became the epicenter of unfathomable ecstasy that coursed through the entirety of his being. Thunderhoof was similarly lost, his dentae clenching tight over a shameless moan as hot transfluid gushed forth to fill the already taunt port he was so wonderfully sheathed within, piping its way upward into the reproduction chamber deeper within. Their shared instant of bliss unified them in a way that transcended their current relationship, merging their very beings for just the the shortest of moments in time.

But with the fading of their sparks, that moment ended, and reality returned in a sudden but pleasant crash.

Thunderhoof felt himself go limp from exhaustion. He crashed atop of Steeljaw in a panting heap, barely remembering to close his spark. They were still joined between the legs as he fell. Primus knew he didn't have the energy to withdraw yet. He was barely conscious when he registered Steeljaw ventilating equally hard beneath him, likely just as gone as he was. More for comforts sake than pride, he pushed himself up a little, trying to wiggle into a more comfortable position. In his post coital daze, he ended up slipping out and rolling clean off to settle heavily beside his partner on the berth, where he let himself lay before gasping out his opinion on their encounter.

"Aye... That was... good... That was... really, really good..."

Steeljaw didn't really hear him. He was barely there in that moment. He wasn't really anywhere. All he could think about was just what he was feeling in that moment. During their session he'd never known such ecstasy, but now he'd never known such bliss. Every solitary fiber of his being was satisfied, and it was wonderful. The pain, the tension, the want... it was all gone. Leaving him to bask in the most pleasant afterglow of his life. He didn't even care that it was beside Thunderhoof; his mind and body were his own, and he let the exhaustion claim him in the comfort of that fact.

Thunderhoof registered Steeljaws slowed ventilations when he'd finally gotten his own to quiet down. He knew the other was helping himself to his berth, but he was too tired to care right then. 

The clean up, the awkward glances... those could wait until morning, as far as he was concerned. 

Until morning...

Chapter Text

Steeljaw had slipped from Thunderhoofs quarters in the earliest hours before daylight, pausing only to wash himself of the previous nights exertions with a towel before he'd left his still sleeping one night stand partner to his deep recharge. Quite contrary to being similarly exhausted, the wolf had felt energized and revitalized from the encounter, so much so that he hadn't been able to bear staying indoors. 

So here he was now, trekking through the forest in the dim gray light of the early morn, going nowhere in particular but instead just content to be up and moving. Not minding the cold dew beneath his pedes, he dropped to all fours and loped beneath the tree cover, slipping through the shadows with a sense of contentment. Inhaling the lightly fogged air, he scented out the countless aromas that were mixed in; pine trees, water particles, pollen... thick as a broth. Primus, it felt so good to be at his peak again. Everything was just so... clear. He could really think, feel and breath. The infuriating instincts that had so clouded his processor were sated and at peace, leaving him to finally get back to life as he knew it. 

Speaking of which, what all did he have planned for the forseeable future? Now that he was fully recovered, he'd need to get back on track. Meetings would need to be held, assignments would need to be given... but he had time. It was quite likely that no one else would be alert and available for hours. So why not enjoy himself? A little bit of exercise to get the energon pumping was always a fantastic start to a day.

Coming to a steep, bare rocky slope, he gave a leap and secured himself on the rough surface, digging his claws in deep to remain fixed in position. Remembering similar exercises from the past, he began searching for footholds. His keen eyes made quick work of the task, and soon he was ascending. The sheer power of his claws left rakes in the stone. He had no goal beyond elevation until he saw a rocky outcrop above, and he immediately decided to claim it. As if running on a horizontal surface, he began to push himself upward, defying gravity and showering the forest with loose stones until he swung onto his destination. Ventilations came fast from the satisfied exertion when he finished.

To his pleasant surprise, he found himself with a good vantage point of the rising sun. The first beams of sunlight pierced the mist and warmed his armor, relaxing him as he took in the view over the treetops with a sense of contentment. To the planets credit, it could be very pleasant to look at. It would be a fine home for future generations, and someone was going to need to rule it. How fortunate he was, to have such an opportunity. Let the Autobots have Cybertron. He knew he could be quite happy here, so long as things played out exactly as he planned. And if things continued as they did, then he'd have all he ever dreamed. Last night had been nothing but a hiccup in a large operation. A hiccup he barely remembered at that. All of last night was nothing more than a dreamlike blur, which probably was helping his mood significantly. Truth be told though, he really didn't care what he'd gotten up to, so long as it was over. Why had he so foolishly tried to deny his body? He was lucky things had turned out as well as they had.

-----------

Thunderhoof was only stirred from his near coma like recharge when an incredibly well aimed sunbeam slipped straight through a window and onto his shutters. Grimacing, the mob boss rolled away and tried to return to sleep, but he knew it was no good. Once he was up, he was up. Stretching out on his great berth, it occurred to him that he had more room than he'd been expecting. Opening his optics, he looked over to find himself alone, though he had to think to recall why this was unexpected.

Steeljaw...

Most of last night came back in a pleasant, blurry wave, only for him to then discover the not so pleasant leftovers splattered all over himself and his berth. At least his partner had cleaned a little, judging by the dirtied towels added to last nights pile, but he clearly hadn't been able to do much. Stepping off the berth, he inspected himself with a sound of disgust, knowing how hard dried fluids were to clean off with towels alone.

I'll shower. Don't give a damn if anyone sees. he decided. What would they do if they did? He was the strongest of the group, and they knew it. That certainly came with advantages. Throwing his largest towel over his shoulder, he headed out and made his way to their makeshift wash rack. He really longed for the luxuries of his penthouse back on Cybertron at times like this... Sharing a cleaning area was typically for the lower classes, and he hoped they could at least get something more... comfortable rigged in the near future. Their current model more resembled an earth car wash than a proper shower...

He was quite pleased to at least find it unoccupied when he got there, and he wasted no time closing the door and starting up a hot cycle. The alone time also gave him an opportunity to think. Last night, at least what he could remember, had certainly been quite fun. Interfacing was something he was used to doing quite regularly, so it had been a welcome break from his dry spell. And he wouldn't lie, being the dominant to a bot in heat was always incredible fun. There was just something about it that brought out the feral side in him... That was probably why his memory was so fogged. And Steeljaw being good in the berth? He never would have guessed. Making his proud leader yelp in absolute pleasure had been the most fun he'd had in a long time.

Scrubbing away at the remnants of their escapades, he couldn't help but be a little amazed at the sheer volume that was stuck between his thighs. Some of this had to be Steeljaws... Even then though, the amount and trajectory was still impressive.

Pit, how'd it get on my stomach? he marveled, scrubbing hard at the sticky blue goo. It's in between the seams too. Figures... Following the trail, he could only grumble to himself at the least fun part of interface. Wish I knews how it ended up so high. It's even on... my chest? 

That stopped him. He didn't remember doing anything to get it up there, unless they'd gotten a lot crazier than he remembered. There would only be a few things they could have done to get it so high anyway, and that included...

Oh no.

Had they merged?

The distinct memory of flashing sparks lingered in his processor, though he'd been too far gone to even notice the spattering of spark fluids generated by their joining. He nearly kicked himself for his own stupidity. Merging while interfacing risked getting bots knocked up, even if the chance was incredibly small. And Steeljaw was the last bot in existence that he wanted to breed with, mostly for practical reasons. Being the ruler of an empire required heirs, and he needed to ensure that their carrier would be willing to go along with his plans. As such, he needed a well thought out business transaction, not a sloppy one night stand.

Odds are so small anyway. Not worth concernin' myself with the small stuff.

However, he knew that "small stuff" was well worth concerning himself with. Life didn't always go according to plan, and he'd need to be prepared for any surprises. Steeljaw was hardly ideal, but he was a decent potential carrier. He'd need to keep an optic on the wolf in the coming months, to see if anything had come from their encounter. 

 

Chapter Text

Steeljaw was fighting hard to ignore the nauseous swishing in his gut as he crouched in the shadows, trying instead to focus every ounce of determination he had on the empty road through the trees. His uphill vantage point gave him a good view of his attack site, but it was rather difficult to celebrate any tactical advantages at that moment. He'd been ill since that morning, from the very second his fuel up had hit his tanks. No doubt he'd been lucky enough to snag a tainted cube... how fortunate.

The far off rumbling of a semi made him tense in his coiled position, necessity overriding comfort as he prepared to put his plan into action. As much as the upcoming exercise made him shudder in discomfort, he knew this was far too important to let a little nausea get in the way. Gritting his dentae, he watched as the truck began to lumber into his field of vision, digging his claws into the dirt in anticipation. His window of opportunity was going to be narrow, he needed to move at the exact moment to avoid failure. Calculating the trucks speed, he was quickly able to determine a countdown, and he timed every click with absolute precision.

Five... Four...

"Underbite, prepare yourself."

At the order to his still hidden subordinate, he pounced on the truck like a wolf on a deer, going for the front and working with the momentum to skid it without tipping. Knowing they didn't have a driver to worry about, he immediately sliced open the automated vehicle, revealing sparking, alien circuitry. Fracture had found the trucks route and advised them of the black box that would need to be destroyed immediately, lest it send a warning to its masters and send any over curious humans on their trail. Finding the less than inconspicuous core all too quickly, Steeljaw tore it from the wreckage, finding it to be every bit as solid as he'd been warned. Though the minuscule amount of exercise was already sending him reeling, he still remembered the plan, turning just as Underbite emerged from the cover of the trees and tossing him the core.

The dark, armored block disappeared down the Chompazoids pipe, sparking for only an instant as it was shredded by the whirling spikes designed to destroy even the most resilient of metals. Steeljaw turned with a grimace as Underbite gulped down the rest of the trucks body, unable to handle the sight of eating as his tanks churned from the strain of the exercise. There was nothing he hated more than looking weak to a subordinate, and so he fought with everything he had to keep the energon down, clamping his mouth closed tight as he battled through the waves. The hum of Underbites power up hit his audials as he squeezed his optics shut, a deep voiced request coming from behind just as he believed he was through the worst of it.  

"Any chance I could scrap a few of the generators for an extra boost? Doubt Fracture would notice."

He opened his mouth to reply, only to be overwhelmed by a fresh wave of sickness as his ration forced his way back up his pipe.

"Hugh!"

Steeljaw barely made it to the side of the road before the taste of partially processed energon hit his glossa, leaving him retching and heaving for a good minute as he emptied his tank. Shuddering as he finally came to nothing but dry heaves, the wolf closed his mouth tight and forced himself to settle, regaining some control as his naseua lessened. The sickness was replaced by mortification when he remembered that he wasn't alone, and he turned to face his underling with uncertainty.

Underbites expression was equal parts confusion and disgust, and his silence certainly wasn't helping to clear any awkwardness from the air. Clearing his vents, Steeljaw found his raspy voice, trying to sound as if nothing had happened as he answered.

"Take the generators back to Fracture. Consume nothing but the trailer when you're finished."

No longer having much of an appetite, Underbite lifted the trailer in his jaws without argument, turning back the way he'd come to return the prize to base. Steeljaw watched him go with a tremble in his stance, unable to believe he'd lost control so completely. Underbite would talk too, he knew that. Primus, what a nightmare... It didn't help that he was still weak and ill and had to drive all the way back to base before he could rest. Still, every moment spent complaining was a moment wasted...

Transforming sluggishly, he dropped to the road and began easing his way home. Life had certainly enjoyed throwing him challenges as of late. It had only been three weeks since his heat cycle, and things were just starting to get back to normal around the base. What debacle would he have to face next?

-----------------

Thunderhoof was quite relieved when Underbite returned to the base with package in mouth, for it meant he could finally get on with his other assignments. He'd been tasked with storing the shipment of experimental generators when it was returned, and he was eager to get that done and move on. He particularly wanted to have a talk with their leader regarding future plans, and get his daily observation in in the meantime.

"Steeljaw's not back yet, is 'e?" he asked as he took the slightly mangled trailer from the Chompazoid. Underbite flexed his jaw before replying, no doubt stiff and tired as he took his time to answer.

"Doubt it. He ordered me to head out first." Thunderhoof was going to leave at that, but a strange expression came over the others face as he unexpectedly continued. "I'd stay away if I was you; he's sick as a dog. Puked right after we snagged the package."

That made Thunderhoof stop. For Steeljaw to be so ill that it'd show to others... It could have meant nothing, but he had to assume it meant something.

"I'll keep that in mind." he replied nonchalantly, doing everything he could to sound uninterested. Trailer on his shoulder, he headed to their storage room with a new purpose, thankful that his destination held something that could be of use to him. His spark was pulsing in his mild panic. As meaningless as this all could be, the implications were potentially massive. He could be a sire, and his empire might have its heir. Primus, he would need to tread so carefully. 

He almost dumped the trailer in his excitement as he entered their storage room, going straight for their folder of salvaged medical and combat data pads and searching for the breed bios that he'd found before in his preparatory research. Finding what he sought, he immediately pulled up the file on Wolficons. Having only done a cursory search before, he skimmed it through as he scrolled, knowing that most of the data would be about attack strategies and weaknesses useful for combat. Still, a few paragraphs pertaining to gestation were included, likely for medics, and he read that with immediate fervor.

Gestation usually lasts around 180-200 solar cycles, resulting in litters of 3-7 pups. Carriers may notice symptoms around the 21st cycle or beyond, usually in the form of nausea, irritability, fatigue, or spark pain. 

21 cycles. How long had it been since they'd interfaced? Three weeks to the day? That felt too specific to be coincidence, even if he knew it very well could be just that. Steeljaw might just be ill, but some part if him doubted that. He'd need to approach carefully and logically if he wanted this to go well. Steeljaw wouldn't risk something as dangerous as unassisted termination, or even an injury induced miscarriage, but that didn't mean he would cooperate entirely. They would both be spark bonded to their brood, and he knew he'd need to work with the wolf to work out the deal that'd make the most of their accident. First, he'd need to convince Steeljaw to even consider making a deal...

Looking back to the data pad, he immediately found a passage that would likely allow him to do just that

Chapter Text

Steeljaw didn't care how pitiful he looked as he crawled onto his berth in the middle of the day and sprawled himself out in a heap. He was exhausted and felt as if he would be sick at any moment, and all he wanted was sleep. The touch of the cool berth helped quite quickly, as did just letting himself go limp and relax. A quick power down would likely be all he needed to recover. So long as he was given this time to rest without interruption, he knew he'd be fine.

 

Knock knock

 

...But of course, he'd have to be crazy to think he'd be allowed such a reprieve. Pinning his ears back, the wolf wondered if they'd just leave him alone if he didn't respond. It probably wasn't something he wanted to deal with anyway. The sound of metal digits pulling at the door told him otherwise, and he had to hold down a snarl as he prepared to tell off whoever was intruding. Being careful to shift into a more dignified position of rest, he turned his helm just in time to see Thunderhoof ducking his antlers through the doorway. A touch of awkwardness tainted his anger. This was hardly a mech he wanted to be around; neither one had quite gotten over their encounter, necessary as it had been for him.

 

"Underbite says you got sick on the mission." Thunderhoof said, quick to get to business. Steeljaw let out a small sigh, feeling both embarrassed and relieved. Was that all this was about? Awkward, but easy to clear up, at least.

 

"Just a minor illness. I'll recover soon, if I'm allowed to rest." he replied pointedly, giving the other a bit of a glare. Thunderhoof either didn't get the message or didn't care, as all he did was cross his arms and continue speaking.

 

"And what if yous don't?"

 

Steeljaw could only blink in surprise. "Come again?"

 

"What if it's something a bit more long term than that?" Thunderhoof continued, shifting to a far more serious tone. Steeljaw turned completely on the berth, now in the defensive. Pinning back his ears, he kept his voice low.

 

"Are you trying to suggest something, Thunderhoof?"

 

Thunderhoof didn't immediately reply. Suddenly looking almost nonchalant, he pulled forth a data pad and clicked it on, optics skimming it over for a moment before he spoke.

 

"Have yous checked your spark recently?"

 

"What?"

 

"Have yous checked your spark recently?" Thunderhoof repeated with more emphasis, still looking exceedingly calm.

 

"What does that have to do with anything?" Steeljaw spat. He wanted to sound exasperated, but now he was really on the defensive. He had no idea where Thunderhoof was going with this, and that was more than enough to put him on edge. There was no way to prepare or strategize, no doubt just as Thunderhoof wanted, so he could only wait and listen.

 

The Cervicon looked at him with an expression he couldn't decipher, letting the moment drag on before he dropped his bombshell. "I'm thinking there's a good chance our little meeting had a few consequences."

 

"You're joking-" Steeljaw atrempted to snarl, barely managing a rasp in his shock. 

 

"And if that's the case, your spark 'll tell us right away." Thunderhoof interrupted, tossing the data pad with the text to support him to Steeljaw. The wolf caught it in trembling hands, not needing to read to understand. Wolficons could see their sparklings in the first stages as tiny orbs floating beside their sparks... Why hadn't he thought to check? He hadn't thought anything might come of their encounter; they hadn't merged, had they? Primus, he didn't even remember, he'd just been so relieved to be done. Why had he been such a fool?! He should have known what could happen, should have known the risks, and yet he'd gone through anyway. The room was spinning around him as he felt his sickness return, but now for an entirely different reason.

 

"I don't need to do this. You have no right... You don't know if I am..." he replied, losing all hope of intimidation as he choked on his own words. Thunderhoof had blindsided him with this potential revelation, and he was near helpless as he struggled to put the pieces of his shattered reality back together.

 

"You'll need me if it's true. You can't terminate out here, and I don't need to remind yous what being sparked means." Thunderhoof said, still the only source of calm in the room. Steeljaw didn't need to think to understand everything he meant. One improperly severed connection during a termination attempt, and his spark would be gone, unable to handle the shock. It was risky enough with a well trained medic and top of the line equipment, but out here? It'd be near certain death. And if he was sparked, he would physically need Thunderhoof. Sparklings required regular transfluid supplements to ensure a stable code and strong frames. It was an adaptation that was meant to encourage bonding between mates, and the irony of that was not lost on him even in that moment.

 

"We still don't know." Steeljaw replied, regaining himself enough to hold his own. Thunderhoof didn't seem disappointed by that answer, which gave him the vague hope that perhaps he wasn't planning to be as cruel about this as he could be. 

 

"Then check."

 

"Not without knowing what you have planned."

 

Thunderhoof hesitated but a click before nodding, determining that to be fair. 

 

"I needs heirs to secure any holdings on my future operations. You're hardly my first choice, but there's no point in wasting an opportunity. You carry 'em, we stay together until our operations is finished, and then I take the bunch with me. Simple as that."

 

Steeljaw was silent in thought. It was simple, and incredibly vague, but it seemed to work in his favor. A few months of carrying was inconsequential in the face of avoiding the consequences he could have faced for his actions. And perhaps he could work out something even more in his favor later on. Assuming he'd even need to, that is.

 

"Very well."

 

Without a pause, he opened his armor and retracted it away to reveal his spark. Unlike the night they'd interfaced, his spark casing was shut tight in defense, and he had to will it open. The armor slid back slowly to reveal the pulsing orb of his life force, though more out of apathy than any kind of embarrassment on Steeljaws part.

 

The moment he was open, neither needed to search to see the tiny abnormalities that had taken up residence. Impossibly small sparks swirled about the wolfs life force, rising outward on tendrils and dipping down to submerge themselves without any care for their observers. Steeljaw felt neither horror or wonder at the sight, but exhausted resignation. Maybe he was so panicked he'd come full circle, it didn't matter. Emotions could be sorted through when he had the energy. Not caring to see Thunderhoofs reaction, he closed himself up and gave a calm and subtle request to be left alone.

 

"That's it then. You have your deal. Give me time to formulate our next move."

 

More than perceptive enough to understand, Thunderhoof nodded and left the other to rest, outwardly calm but inwardly buzzing with emotion. Leaving without a word, the mob boss tried to process what he'd just seen, betraying his earlier promise to see this as an impersonal business deal. Something had just clicked inside him, and it was almost frightening. Those impossibly tiny sparks were a piece of him, living independently and growing and preparing themselves for the world. It fascinated him, but also filled him with an emotion he wasn't familiar with. It made him want to protect them and their bearer from anything foolish enough to threaten them, though he didn't understand why. 

 

"Hormones." he reasoned aloud, knowing how instinct could cloud judgement. Cervicons were territorial and protective by nature, but he didn't have time to be swept up in his primal urges. He'd do what was needed, nothing more. And that was a promise. 

 

Steeljaw was left alone to his exhausted resignation, his frame lying with deathly stillness as he drifted in a state of aftershock. Everything was different. Everything was going to be harder. This would set him back so much, he couldn't even imagine how to go forward. And what of his pack? How could he maintain order and respect with a litter weighing him down? Even with a spark full of younglings, he'd never felt as lonely as he did in that moment. 

 

"What have I done?" he whispered aloud. Was everything he'd accomplished for naught? Had he single handedly tossed aside any hope of victory in one foolish move? Uncertainty gnawed at him like a wound as exhaustion pressed him deeper into the berth.

 


Answers don't come to a worried mind... I must rest... I've survived worse . The rationale relaxed the storm raging inside of him, and he found sleep too tempting to pass up. Now aware of a faint tingling in his spark, he closed his optics and let the darkness of his exhaustion claim him.

Chapter Text

Steeljaw tapped a claw in a sloppy rhythm against the tabletop as he poured over yet another data pad, his dentae tightening as the pages of text scrolled by without offering anything that might actually be of use. Huffing in disgust, he tossed the useless device into the growing pile at his side, lip curling in frustration as he opened up a new pad to read. He'd been searching their scavenged information collection for hours without results, and he was beginning to reach the end of his patience. There had to be something in here that could help him, no matter how slight.

A whine escaped the wolf as a knot of pain twisted down low, his hands dropping to the gentle swell of his belly to stroke away the tense discomfort as it blossomed outward. He'd lost track of how far he was progressing, but he knew that these pains meant he had a long way to go. Even less educated Cybertronians knew of this uncomfortable phase of carrying, where the sparklings left their Carriers spark and joined with their developing protoforms in the reproduction chamber. The rapid surge of initial growth created swelling that was uncomfortable at best and crippling at worst, but thankfully it didn't last too long. 

But how long, exactly, was that? And what else followed? He wasn't the most informed bot when it came to these things, and he was regretting it now. These distractions were becoming far too common for his comfort, and he was starting to fear discovery. Thunderhoof had kept his mouth shut thus far, so it seemed, but his growing belly would inevitably give him away. He only wanted to delay that day, and it would be easier if he could find something, anything to help him. Whimpering as the cramps came again, he massaged his fingers in a rhythm, looking back to the pad with a glimmer of hope as he read on. Some of the text was corrupted, but the file was clearly a medical guide to the basic biology and treatment of Cybertrons less common species. It seemed Primus was looking his way, just this once.

Flipping through until he found his own species, he was disappointed to see a notable amount of corruption for the pages describing the later stages, but satisfied that what he'd come for appeared to be present. 

Wolficons typically gestate for about 140-210 solar cycles, and this is heavily dependent on the amount of pups concieved.  Litters typically number 3-7 ssparklings, and this is predictable through family history. 

He skipped past a bunch of useless information on the in depth developmental process and began skimming once he saw a mention of transfluid, feeling an uncomfortable twinge in his gut as he read on.

Transfluid donations will become mandatory at regular intervals around the 35th solar cycle or beyond. The Sires species may impact the codes durability, so genetic testing is recomended to ensure mutual compatibility. Regardless, every four solar cycles tends to produce the best results for both parties unless a medic specifically reccomends otherwise. 

Steeljaw almost groaned aloud. Interfacing every four days? How was he going to survive that? Thunderhoof would become as arrogant and impossible as a buck who'd just sprouted his antlers; strutting about the base with pride after each and every session. But there'd be no avoiding it. His body would need the donations to complete the process, and just thinking about it was creating odd feelings where pain was not a moment before...

Thunderhoof lay on his berth in thoughtful silence, hands behind his helm and a hoof tapping against the metal in a simple rhythm. He was aware that by now he should have had a formal plan drawn up for his offspring, but some part of him was oddly hesitant. For once, the thought of being so cold and calculated with living creatures felt... unsettling. These sparklings would be critical to his success, so why did they make him so sentimental? He didn't like it. Undoubtedly his coding was playing a role, driving him to feel affection to encourage his protective instincts. That wasn't so awful if it kept the little ones alive, but it could ruin him if it made him too soft.

Now that he thought about it though, what would his offspring even look like? Hybrids between different types of Cybertronians often took exclusively after one parent, save for small things like coloration or frame detail, but what if these were an exception? Come to think of it, that could be a good thing. His physical power, combined with Steeljaws endurance and dexterity? A Wolficon with antlers would probably look pretty weird though. Hopefully one of them would be a Cervicon with claws, at least. He'd always wanted claws...

Tap, tap

Thunderhoof snorted in indignant surprise as he heard the raps on his door, lifting his head to see it opening before he had a chance to tell off the bot foolish enough to disturb him. 

"Steeljaw, what're you doin' here?"

Steeljaw didn't say a word as he lingered in the doorway, his muzzle bearing a frown that, upon closer inspection, looked far more similar to a pout. He remained speechless as he closed the door behind him, approaching the berth to stand beside Thunderhoof and fix him with a glare before speaking. 

"I don't want to hear a word from you when we're done."

Vague as the phrase was, Thunderhoof was able to understand without a moments hesitation, his thoughtful frown curling up into a broad smirk. He knew transfluid would be needed eventually. Steeljaw growled and tensed at the smugness, but didn't threaten or withdraw from the room. He needed this, and it was best to get it over with while he still had his mind and his dignity intact. Thunderhoof relaxed and spread his legs in welcome, keeping his hands behind his helm in confident comfort as he took the opportunity to tease his leader.

"Ready for ya, doll."

Steeljaw bared his fangs at the insult, climbing onto the berth with a snarl and mounting the other mech with as much aggression as he could manage. Despite this, his body sensed what was near and betrayed him, filling his lower regions with tingling excitement and snapping his plating away from his valve.

Thunderhoof retracted his own plating and took his already half erect spike in hand, massaging it the rest of the way up and pointing it toward the welcoming heat. Steeljaw swallowed his pride and dropped down onto the waiting spike with a shudder, sliding right down to the hilt with ease. Closing his optics, he began moving up and down without hesitation, eager to be done as soon as physically possible. Thunderhoof was enjoying himself enough for that to be a simple enough request, the wolficons sharp ears easily picking up the others soft grunts and sighs of pleasure as he let himself be ridden. Steeljaw felt mild pleasure himself, but it was nothing more than his bodies reward for fulfilling his needs. Not even his needs, the needs of the sparklings inside him. The realization made him feel a mild sense of betrayal. 

"Come on Steeljaw, can't yous be a little more... aggressive?"

Steeljaw opened his optics with a snarl at the smug request, his ears pinning back in rage as he beheld that nauseating smirk. 

"Aggressive? You want aggressive?!" he spat, slamming his servos onto the others chassis and digging in his claws. Thrusting his hips down hard and fast, Steeljaw ignored the noise created by the clashing of their armor and focused everything he had on making the other mech regret his words, digging his claws in deep enough to draw energon. But once more Thunderhoof outdid him, smirking with frenzied glee and thrusting back with yet another taunt.

"Thats more... like it!"

Steeljaw could only bare his teeth and snarl in absolute rage, hammering down on the other mech for his only source of satisfaction. He hated him at that moment; more than he'd ever hated any other bot that he'd ever met, but there was nothing he could do. Thunderhoof had inadvertently made himself invaluable, and he was relishing in the position of power it put him in, taunting and teasing Steeljaw all the way to his overload. The rush of warmth filled Steeljaw with disgust, and he made himself a vow.

Thunderhoof would have this moment, but he'd never be above him again. Steeljaw would know no more degredation. 

Chapter Text

Steeljaw twitched an ear in discomfort as the sparklings in his belly began squirming in unison for the umpteenth time that night, forcing him to roll about on the berth in exhausted exasperation.

"Primus, I just want to sleep!" he hissed into the darkness. The cubs only continued their late night exercise, wiggling about in the increasingly cramped confines of his belly to their sparks content. Groaning, Steeljaw went limp on the berth, wishing he could pop the sparklings out now for just a few hours rest. That wouldn't be for months yet though. Annoying as they were, the cubs were only marginally developed, and couldn't possibly survive outside of him for long. They hadn't even gained enough mass yet to give him anything more than a light swell, despite what their perceptible wiggling might suggest. That light swell was enough to incite suspicion amongst his ranks, however. He had heard the whispers that dispersed as soon as he'd enter a room, and he knew that it wouldn't be long before he'd have to face his pack with the truth.

"If I live long enough..." he muttered to himself, feeling a small squirming restart at the top of his gut. It was strange that beings currently no longer than one of his digits could create such a fuss. In less inopportune moments, he actually didn't mind their squirming as much. It was an assurance that they were healthy and growing. Now though, all he wanted was to rest...

Sighing in defeat, he realized that this was a battle he wasn't going to win. Rolling onto his pedes and off the berth, he mulled over his options. Beyond attempting sleep, all he could really do was get some exercise, or speak to one of his subordinates...

It occurred to him that the only bot he could speak freely with was Thunderhoof, and yet for some reason that didn't disgust him as much as it should have. Perhaps because he was due for another transfluid donation. Thunderhoof had thankfully not repeated his behavior in the few interfaces they'd had since the disastrous first, but that didn't mean he looked forward to the encounters. Business only interfaces were awkward and generally unpleasant, especially when only one party actually needed to overload. Still, he could feel the need for yet another beginning to blossom upward from his gut. The sensation was almost pleasant, actually. The warm, tingling need was akin to arousal, it was everything afterwards that he disliked. Sighing into the darkness, the Wolficon decided that something needed to be done if he ever wanted rest, and the easiest way didn't need to be pleasant. A quick interface with a semiconscious buck could potentially drain him just enough to help him get the sleep he needed.

Leaving the room on all fours, Steeljaw sluggishly made his way to the others berthroom, feeling the pups wiggling all the way to the doorway. Not bothering to be quiet, he pushed the door open and entered the dark room to the snores of a deeply recharging Cervicon. With more joy than he would admit, he shook the berth to wake the other mech, delighting in the snort of surprise and the bleary optics that glared at him when the other woke.

"What do yous want?" Thunderhoof slurred, recognizing him immediately. 

"Transfluid." Steeljaw clipped. Making it sound more like an order eased his still damaged pride a bit. Thunderhoof only groaned and flopped his head back on the berth.

"This can't wait 'till mornin'?"

"No." Steeljaw said. Thunderhoof grumbled an incoherent mix of unpleasantries before submitting and retracting his plating, spike half limp but rising of its own accord at the promise of interface. Steeljaw climbed up, straddling the other mech to align himself. Exposing his valve, he dropped down as soon as the other was sufficiently erect, sliding right down to the midpoint before bobbing up in the start of a rhythm. The sensation was neutral to him, and so he was a little peeved when Thunderhoof began grunting in half awake pleasure. Feeling that the unequal enjoyment was unfair, he dropped himself down to jolt the other mech, crashing their hips together with a clang. The immediate pain on the others faceplate was almost satisfying.

"Pit, easy!" Thunderhoof sputtered at the harsh ride. Groping in the dark, he reached out to stop the other mech from repeating the act by taking hold of his hips, but his aim was too centered. Outstretched hands splayed against a warm, rounded midsection. Steeljaw yelped at the invasive touch, but before he could swipe the hand away a familiar wiggling began anew in his belly.

Sensitive nodes in his palm immediately let Thunderhoof catch the tiny flutters against his fingertips, and the Cervicon felt his spark stop dead. Total silence descended on the frozen mechs. Their position was awkward in every meaning of the word, particularly for the poor Wolficon. Steeljaw blushed in absolute mortification as the sparklings refused to settle, leaving him without a way to easily break the silence as Thunderhoof maintained his deer in headlights stare.

"That them?" the mob boss croaked unexpectedly, moving nothing but his lips as he remained petrified in terrified awe. Sufficiently recovered, Steeljaw felt the invasion of his personal space far more acutely than before, and he had to lean back considerably to free himself from the frozen mechs grasp.

"Yes. They move now. It's part of their development." he murmured in reply. Thunderhoof nodded but didn't drop his gaze, keeping his hands on Steeljaws thighs after having them removed. Steeljaw took the nod as a cue and restarted his bobbing, desperate to be anywhere but where he was. It wasn't the usual anger that motivated his desire though, it was vulnerability. Not vulnerability to Thunderhoof. He was still strong enough to be confident they werect physical equals. But that touch had created a moment of... connection between them, and he didn't know what to do with the feelings it had created. He only knew that he disliked it, and wanted to escape it as quickly as possible.

Thunderhoof, for his part, never wanted to let the wolf out of his sight again. Those tiny, wiggling bitlets were his. His own coding blended with another's to create something new. Primus, how could something so small, something he'd never even seen, have such a hold on him? The instinct to protect swelled up from deep inside him, and the interface became pleasureless as his long buried sire programming came online. His mate and offspring were his future, something that he would need to protect and provide for at all costs.

The Cervicons overload came as a quiet shift to the awkward tone of the room. Steeljaw only heard a soft grunt before he felt the warmth inside of him, his reproduction tubes guiding the transfluid upward to the sparkling bearing tank and alleviating his cravings. Sighing, he lifted himself off the others spike and made to climb off the berth and make his escape, slowed considerably by his still trembling legs. Thunderhoof, snapping out of his daze at the others move to leave, quickly cleared his throat and spoke without thinking.

"You uh... yous don't need t' leave..."

Steeljaw, frozen in shock, only stared at the other in disbelief. When the offer wasn't immediately redacted, he cleared his vents and muttered a reply.

"Sharing a berth would only increase the likelihood of arousing suspicion. I shall return to my own quarters."

Thunderhoof had the sense not to try again and watched the wolf leave, feeling an uncomfortable emptiness in his gut as he was left alone. With the moment gone, he recognized that the sudden bout of sentiment was hormonal, but that didn't mean he wasn't still feeling the impact. Those delicate flutters were his future, but Primus, they were so small. Even within the womb of a capable warrior they were vulnerable to the hazards of war, and that thought gnawed at him like a starved scraplet. How could he sit by and do nothing? Steeljaw would balk at the thought of coddling, but his instincts would allow nothing less. He'd keep a close optic on his mate, and ensure that the others kept their distance. Any bot that threatened his offspring would have to go through him.

Then he thought to the future, when the little ones would be born. Cervicons only bore two or three at most, but it was likely that he could expect up to five or six. Such a litter would prove difficult to protect, but he was confident. He'd managed an empire, how difficult could sparklings be? Perhaps they could even recruit some loyal underlings to aid in the task. He imagined it would be easier in the early days, while they were still small in immobile... it would be as easy as bundling them in a blanket pile and feeding them in between naps. Suddenly he found himself imagining a nest of newly born fawns, mewling and wiggling amongst each other, their armor still soft and spotted...

He smiled despite himself. 

Chapter Text

Steeljaw kept a protective paw over his swollen belly as he bent low through a particularly thick patch of brush, squeezing his broad frame through the tight undergrowth and into a more open part of the forest. Daylight was barely beginning to crest over the treetops, but he was still more than comfortable navigating his way through the dark woods with his sharp optics. This was his third such lone excursion into these parts, and he was quite confident in his ability to roam alone even with his ever growing burden.

Dropping down on all fours, he relied on his acute olfactory receptors to take in the alien scents around him, seeking a very particular odor that he'd only just learned how to identify. He caught it as immediately as he'd expected; a dry, earthy scent that he'd come to understand as the natural scent for earths many small cave systems. Following his nose, he set on the move, hopeful that this find would be more fruitful than the last few. 

At first he'd thought the instinct to nest in an underground shelter little more than yet another annoying, illogical urge. After all, their base was a well fortified shelter from enemies and the elements, seemingly ideal for bringing a litter of pups safely into existence. But as he'd progressed into his term, he'd come to not only understand the reason for his coding, but see its undeniable logic. A small den was easy to protect, maintain, and would provide the ideal environment for keeping his newborns warm and accounted for. Anything could go wrong in the dilapidated factory they called home, and even the smallest room would be too large for him to isolate himself securely with his pups.

And so here he was, nose down and hot on the trail of what would hopefully prove to be an ideal birthing den. He had no real concrete concept of what his goal would look like, just a gut sense of what was needed and what wouldn't work. The last few he'd discovered had all been unsuitable for a variety of reasons that he once would have considered superfluous at best; too deep, too many entrances, too wet, too soft, too big... the list was rather silly when laid out so literally...

A crack in the side of the mountain marked his goal. Immediately going into inspection mode, he was rather distraught to see what the opening fissure was just too thin at the entrance for his frame even at its sveltest, and even more disappointingly, it expanded into a perfectly sized cavern not too far in. A quick swipe against the rocks assured him that tunneling would not be an option. He huffed, halfway wishing he could call up Thunderhoof and have the large mech pull his weight and smash out an entrance for him. But he knew that could never be an option. Despite the lugs growing tolerability, Steeljaw had no desire for him to be anywhere near when the sparklings came. It was partly pride and professionalism that motivated that desire, but it was predominantly a sense of... what could he even call it? Fear? He'd be at his most vulnerable in those hours, and he had no desire to let any bot, sire or not, lay optics on him during that time.

Hence the even greater need to find a suitable den.

Setting off on his way, he made for uncharted territory deeper in the forest, feeling the beginning of fatigue nagging at his pedes far too early for his liking. The cubs inside of him seemed to sap the energy straight from his veins at the most inconvenient of times, though he couldn't imagine what they might use it for. All they ever seemed to do was kick and squirm against his insides, most frequently when he was trying to concentrate on work or rest. Even now he could feel them fluttering inside of him, wiggling newly formed limbs and testing their ever expanding limits. He'd have been proud if it weren't so distracting.

Sharp as he was, he was able to persevere and get on the track of a second cave in good time. The scent pulled him deeper into the forest and closer to the mountains base, where the stones from its crumbled peaks had accumulated for eons. The frequency of the mossy boulders amidst the old growth suggested that his chances of success were good. The crumbling stone had probably cracked enough to form at least a few good sized caves and burrows, one of which had to be satisfactory. 

Something tugged at his spark when he came to a great mound of smooth boulders. The thick knot of trees that covered it all around parted at ground level just before him, as if nature itself was beckoning him closer. Though the untrained eye may have just seen a pile of earth, he immediately recognized the signs he was looking for. A single boulder resting on the dirt became his target. About waist height, he was quickly able to see that it was far more than just a rock in a pile. He could smell the earthy air filtering through thin gaps where it met the pile, and he set his paws in place to move it. The rock moved as if it'd been set in place by intelligent design, sliding away from the others to reveal a short dark tunnel that eased ever so slightly upward.

Steeljaw couldn't stop a single wag of his tail at the positive sight. An upward facing entrance provided protection from flooding in the event of rain. Oh how he hoped the rest of the cave was equally functional... Going down low, he moved carefully into the dark tunnel, adjusting his optics to see with the minimal light that filtered through thin cracks in the earth. His spark leapt with joy as he quickly came into a small oval chamber, just tall enough for him to stand heavily stooped and just wide enough for him to touch with nose and tail at its widest. Cool moss blanketed the floor in the softest natural bedding he'd ever seen, and the stone walls were smooth and dry to ensure comfort. 

Giving himself a moment to revel in the find, the wolficon laid himself down and sighed appreciativly at the impossible comfort. He knew it immediately; this was the den where his pups would be born. It would need some work, a little more modern bedding, sealing of the cracks for insulation, and some equipment to help him when the time came. But beyond that, it was absolutely perfect. 

Tiny paws kicked against his belly in what he believed was satisfaction, assuring him that he had approval from all parties involved. Sighing in comfort and mild exhaustion, he could feel the urge to stay and rest nagging inside him as his optics grew heavy. But he knew that now wasn't the time. Soon the sun would be up and he would be needed for work, and the last thing he wanted was a search party discovering this private location. 

Reluctantly, he pulled himself to his pedes and made for the exit, winking in the ever growing sunlight and sliding the protective boulder back into place. He gave himself a moment to check the area and sweep away any signs of his presence for securities sake before departing, starting the long walk home in silent thought. Squinting against the rising sun, he barely had time to register a flash of blue metal in the clearing ahead before his audios were assaulted.

"Steeljaw!"

"Gah!"

Thunderhoof stood with his back to the sun and his servos on his hips, a look of almost patronizing displeasure on his face as he began admonishing like an angry carrier.

"What the pit are yous doin out here? Any autobot or rogue con coulda snuck up on yous, and I wouldn't of been able to help ya! Yous can't just-"

"I'm free to go where and when I please, Thunderhoof." Steeljaw interrupted, standing to his full height and assuming his usual air of authority. "I do not require your permission or your protection."

The sire to be was hardly reassured. "But in your condition-"

"A few pups won't keep me from defending myself."

Thunderhoof huffed, less than satisfied but unwilling to push further. "I 'spose." Folding his arms and arching a brow, he gave the other mech a pointed look. "But eh... what do yous means, pups?"

Steeljaw blinked, unsure of how to respond to such a query. Finding his voice, he spoke a little slower than usual. "Pups. What I'm currently carrying."

Thunderhoof rolled his optics and lifted his helm, making a point of using his far greater height to look down on the other bot. "I think yous means fawns. Ain't no way somethin I sired 'll turn out anything less than pure Cervicon."

Steeljaw ground his teeth, lowering his voice and giving Thunderhoof a not at all subtle glare. What made this antler brained fool think he was at all superior? "Genetics will likely say otherwise. And so will I. I shall refer to my offspring however I please."

"Why?" Thunderhoof snorted. "Ain't no way my cohorts 'll take them serious if they grow up thinkin their dogs"

Steeljaw fought hard to stop himself from pinning his ears down, unwilling to let the other know he was upsetting him. He only dropped his voice and gave the other a cold glare. "When you or your cohorts bear a litter, you may call them whatever you like."

Either catching on or giving up, Thunderhoof only humphed and shelved the subject, bringing up another, less controversial topic instead. "Speakin o' litters... how many bitlets are we expectin 'ere?"

The question struck an immediate cord within Steeljaw. Primus, he had no idea... but he couldn't admit that. If only not to give an inch in their ongoing power struggle. "Why is it so important? 

"My initial plans didn't count on more than two. I needs to know how much of 'n adjustment to make."

"I'm not far enough long to determine a number." Steeljaw said cooly, well aware that it was a lie.

"A Cervicon could tell by now."

"I'm not a Cervicon." Steeljaw clipped, unwilling to let the other mech probe him any further. Pushing past him, he spoke curtly as he began walking. "Regardless, we have more important matters to attend to than sparklings. Let's head back to base."

Thunderhoof thought better than to keep pushing and walked in stride with the other mech, keeping an optic on their surroundings at all time. Frustrating as Steeljaw was, he was still carrying some valuable assets, and he refused to let anything happen to him.

After all, his fawns were counting on it.  

Chapter Text

Steeljaw felt almost giddy as he slipped out of the confines of the base, his heavy pack surprisingly light on his back as he made for the dark forest. It had taken a considerable amount of planning and good timing to make this escape, and now that he'd executed it perfectly he'd finally have a few hours of freedom away from Thunderhoofs unending "protection". The no longer ignorable swell of his belly made progress a little slow, but he'd grown so accustomed to it that he barely noticed the lag as he trotted along the now familiar path. The den he'd claimed was a decent walk away, but he'd long since figured out a path that was manageable for him and hard to find for others, ensuring he'd have plenty of time to himself.

Why did being alone sound so appealing as of late? He'd been so eager to get out that he hadn't even given that much thought. Thinking on it now though, he found himself happy just at the idea of being able to curl up in peace and solitude in the place where his pups would be born. A soft smile pulled on his lips as he imagined an ideal setting. Rain pattering on the outside of the den as he lay comfortable and warm on a perfectly prepared pile of bedding, his pups mewling and squirming to snuggle as closely as possible to his protected underbelly. It was a little silly, but it made him feel a little more at ease about the prospect of being a carrier.

He arrived at the den just as the walk was starting to tire him. Panting lightly at the exertion created by carrying a bag of supplies and a belly of sparklings, he paused before approaching the door to ensure he hadn't been followed. Swirling his ears and taking a few quick sniffs, he caught nothing but the sound of the forest and the scent of earth's native fauna. As he'd expected to, of course. The only bot he had to worry about was Thunderhoof, and the big hulking mob boss would have been detectable mere moments after giving chase. Certain he was alone, the wolf dropped his bag and pushed aside the stone that covered the entrance, stooping dodwn and dragging the pack inside to the small round chamber.

A sense of ease settled over him as he was enveloped by the dark, cool atmosphere of the tiny cave, his body naturally sinking to the soft floor with a sigh of ease and laying belly up. The stress he'd been accumulating for countless weeks melted off of him in moments, and a burst of activity started up in his belly at the surge of happiness that went through his bond. Tiny paws kicked as the tightly bundled group of pups squirmed in delight to match his own, and he found himself happily stroking the swell of his midsection in reply. They didn't, and couldn't, know it yet, but they'd be born here soon. He wasn't sure exactly how long it would be, but a rough calculation based on the information he'd found potentially put their birth just a few weeks away. And considering he'd be welcoming five of them, he really had some preparations to begin.

Pulling the bag to his side, he idly groped around inside before his claws pulled forth the one solid item within, a portable heater complete with power supply. It was admittedly a bit of a ramshackle piece of tech, salvaged entirely from Earth parts, but it would do well to ensure the den was warm. The planet was heading for its winter stage after all, and it was already growing chilly. Setting the robust portable aside, he reached in and began pulling forth the rest of the supplies. Countless blankets of varying sizes all came out in fistfuls. With care he didn't know he had, he started spreading them across the floor in an even layer, turning the already soft den into a perfect, plush haven for pups. The sensation of such a soft bed was heaven in comparison to his berth. So much so that he decided to roll back and lay belly up like a happy pup himself, his arms curled up close and his tail wagging idly in quiet exuberance. He hadn't felt this relaxed since he was a youngling at his mother's side, and he didn't care to waste the rare opportunity to just lay and enjoy himself.

The peace allowed him to relax and enter an almost meditative state of ease. The sounds of the forest waking up were just audible through the stone walls, and in the silence he found he was able to tune in more attently to his belly and the commotion within. The unintelligible swarm of movement became clear and more easily understood, enough that he was able to make out the movements of individuals. Something small and insistent was pushing up against his chest supports while another kicked idly into the middle of his belly, and two more settled comfortably at the base of his pelvic struts. Each was already an individual in its own right, even if he had yet to meet them. But when he did, it would be time for names...

Names. On Cybertron, names were never decided before birth, but were instead drafted and thought of in abundance. This ensured that a bot was given a title to match mannerisms, or certain physical traits, or perhaps one that went with a story. He still needed to start drafting, but it was hard with so many potential variables. Primarily, what were they going to look like? Wolficon names were natural for him, but what would one call a Cervicon or a hybrid? He couldn't even fathom. But then, that's what Thunderhoof was for, not that he needed to know. Steeljaw would get full last say on all names of nothing else, due in no small part to his role as carrier... But he still had time. Time to plan, time to think, and time to rest. And Primus if he wasn't feeling up to a good nap... He'd barely closed his optics before he was snoozing deeply and peacefully, his body naturally curling up to enjoy the safety of his newly bedded den in solitude.

-------

-Hey, Steeljaw?-

...

-Yo, Steel??-

"Hmmm..."

-Yous got about ten seconds before I come out there lookin for yous. One, two, three...-

Steeljaw twitched once before startling into consciousness at the countdown that was being growled into his comm link, and it wasn't until the caller had hit nine that he was awake and angry enough to growl out a reply.

-Primus Thunderhoof I'm here, what do you want??-

If he hadn't been so out of it, Steeljaw might have sworn he heard a sigh of relief from the other end before the gruff rebuttal came through.

-Where are yous?! No one's seen head or tail of ya all day.-

-I'm out. I don't have to justify that to anyone. I believe we've had this conversation before.- Steeljaw rolled onto his side as he snapped out the reply, minding his swell as he prepared to get up and leave before he was potentially tracked to his location.

-Well yeah, but...' Thunderhoof faded off with what Steeljaw could definitely identify as a sigh, one that sounded so genuine he actually stood still to hear the Cervicon out. -Look, I ain't gonna pretend I know what carryin' entails, Cuz I don't, but... I don't like not knowin where to find ya. Anything can happen on this mudball and I'd like to be able to ensure yous is safe. Ya get me?-

-I... understand you, yes.- Steeljaw replied, admittedly a little unsure how to feel. Leaving the den full of supplies and sealing it off, he replied carefully and almost gently. -And it seems reasonable that you know when I'm leaving, even if not to where. In the future I'll inform you ahead of time. For now, I'm returning to the mill.-

-Good.- Thunderhoof replied, sounding almost as confused as he felt. -When yous get here, I got a little proposition to discuss...-

Chapter Text

"No."

"Yous didn't even-"

"I don't need to. My answer is no."

Thunderhoof snorted and frowned while crossing his arms, looking down at Steeljaw with a face that foretold a very unpleasant conversation. Sighing, Steeljaw pinched the bridge of his muzzle, trying to think of a more patient way to voice his opinion.

"Thunderhoof. I... appreciate your offer, but you must understand my decision. The two of us sharing a berth... It would draw unwanted attention."

"Since when did yous start carin' about gossip?"

"I never said I did. However, our image is still important."

Thunderhoof shook his helm and dropped his hands to his hips, cocking a brow as he surveyed the other for a good moment before replying.

"I'm startin' to think you're just afraid of bots thinking we're together."

Steeljaw leaned against Thunderhoofs berth, the weight of his litter making standing for so long difficult. It didn't help that this conversation was already proving exhausting. "I've never been swayed by the opinions of others, Thunderhoof. I'm merely stating that, as leaders-"

"We can do whatever the frag we want." Thunderhoof clipped, cutting Steeljaw off mid explanation. Before he could even recover, the mob boss was going on with gusto. "I'm serious! Yous have only said no cuz of what other bots think. Now look, I ain't asking for your claw in bonding here. All I want is to share a berth. For... safety n' such. Those bitlets are coming soon, and we ain't exactly in a well fortified bunker."

Thunderhoof paused, either to gather his thoughts or offer room for rebuttal Steeljaw didn't know. Regardless, the silence was filled afterwards by a continuation.

"I get that we're not more than unlucky frag pals, but being together at night will make things easier. Those little f-sparklings are my future business partners. I need to ensure they get here safe. You get me?"

Steeljaw was silent, his optics sliding shut as he took a cleansing vent. Thunderhoof had a point. Being together during recharge would offer protection as well as convenience. And his primary reason for denying the proposal was his desire for this whole affair to be as subtle as possible. But he was unable to deny that carrying had drained him of some of his speed and strength, leaving him in need of aid that couldn't be had with any other bot.

A gentle flutter in his belly sealed the deal. He couldn't deny his pups an extra layer of protection, annoying and embarrassing as it may have been.

"I do see your logic, yes." he replied carefully. A genuine look of happiness flashed across Thunderhoofs normally stoic face, making him wonder briefly if he had another motivation for this. Ignoring it, he continued without changing tone. "So I'll try it. But if I find it unsatisfactory, I will do what works best for me. Understood?"

There was a flicker of something less identifiable on the others face, something he could only guess at before he got his answer with a sudden smirk.

"Not to brag, but I'm pretty sure yous are gonna be plenty satisfied."

...

"You can't be serious."

Thunderhoof shrugged his shoulders and replied honestly, the rare smirk still resting devilishly on his face. "Yous 'll need more transfluid than ever in the next few weeks to keep the bitlets healthy. I'm just sayin', we may as well take advantage of the close quarters. Two Corvicons with one blast, am I right?"

Steeljaw sighed hard and rubbed his temples, admonishing himself for being at all surprised. The fact that the proposal only made sense didn't make it any easier to bare.

"You're impossibly immature."

"When I wants to be."

Thunderhoof chuckled at his own humor before straightening up, still smiling but with an air of maturity that fit his station.

"But back to business. I'll be gone for a bit to grab some stuff for Fractures weapon tinkering. Yous can feel free to get comfortable while I'm gone."

"I'll consider it."

"And if you still ain't satisfied when I get back, I'll help ya settle in..."

Steeljaw grumbled something less than amicable under his breath.

Chapter Text

The rough data pads screen flickered in the dim light as Steeljaw made adjustments to the blueprint file shining on the touch screen, his claws skimming over the scratched surface as he muttered to himself. Laying on his side, the Wolficon was curled just as much as his gravid belly would allow, his long tail twitching idly in irritation as he worked. His muzzle was fixed in a frown as his high brows furrowed, ears bent back in obvious displeasure as he tried to complete the schematic.

"Still too much energy consumption for a workable model... Nothing I can do to fix that through rewiring, the issue is with the materials... But I can't help that, unless this mudball decides to just hurry up and invent Thermatannium already... Hmphh..."

Rearranging a few items on the blueprint in hopes for a stroke of insight, his disappointed musings were interrupted by a solid thudding from his belly.

Whump

Gasping in discomfort, Steeljaw sucked in a breath to recover quickly, now familiar with but still not accustomed to such happenings. Throwing a hand down to his swell, he felt around for the general spot the kick had originated, looking for the round shape that would mark the sparkling.

"If you don't mind, I am trying to work." He scolded, not quite able to tell which of the wriggling quintuplets was responsible for the jab. Not that it mattered though. One kick was usually all he got at a time once it was nearing bedtime. Taking the data pad back into his hands, he put his thoughts back into making his idea a workable reality, taking extra effort to try and brainstorm some quick fixes.

Bam

"Hoorgh..."

Both hands flew to his belly as he curled up in reflex, optics clouding with tears as he reeled from the force of the blow to his insides. The solid and powerful nature of the kick made him realize something very quickly. That had been a hoof. A strong, armored hoof attached to a very powerful leg, that undoubtedly belonged to a cervicon... Marvelous.

"Little devil..." He spat, trying not to pay any mind to the light tremble in his limbs. While he'd never admit it, he couldn't help but be a little proud of the feat. For something so small to command such strength, before it had even entered the world... Imagine what it could do when it was grown and properly trained. It'd certainly make all this worth it.

The activity brought about a burst of movement within him, and in moments he was able to feel five sets of tiny limbs stretching and straining against the ever more restrictive walls of his reproduction chamber. Sighing, he tossed the data pad onto a nearby table, knowing all too well he'd be getting no more work done tonight. But then, he wasn't ready to sleep either... Not just because of his pups, but because... He was feeling a little needy himself. The ever expanding needs of the sparklings were growing to be beyond what he could provide on his own, and so he was needing more and more from Thunderhoof. Which was not something he was too happy about. At least it'd be easy to get, considering that they slept in the same room now.

Another kick made him grunt softly. Things certainly weren't as roomy in there as they had once been. In fact, things were rapidly reaching the point where space would be a concerning issue. He was already beginning to feel bloated. And that meant that soon, perhaps sooner than he wanted, the pups would need to be born. The due date was starting to creep into the near future, and he wasn't sure if he could be ready for that... Not that he had a choice. The pups would need to come out, and surgical removal wasn't an option. Of course he wasn't exactly scared, he'd faced far worse pains than whatever childbirth could ever offer him.

"Evenin'."

Like this one.

Thunderhoof strode in with his usual air of relaxed confidence, with the only difference from usual being a tarp in hand that he was dabbing over his dripping armor.

"Is it raining?" Steeljaw asked, turning an ear to the outside wall. There was no pattering of rain droplets to preemptively answer his question, so he was left waiting for Thunderhoof to answer. Taking his sweet time, Thunderhoof rubbed the back of his broad neck, showing off a little as he did so.

"Nah. Just decided to hit the shower before coming in."

Steeljaw huffed. Of course.

"Again? You bathed this morning."

Thunderhoof looked at him smugly as he turned the attention to his impressive antlers, drying them off far more gently than the rest of his body. "Bots like me is just used to certain comforts. Hence why I had Fracture set up the whole shebang in the first place, so I could use it whenever I wants."

Steeljaw frowned like only a bot with a muzzle could, staring down his nose at the unimaginably frivolous bot that he'd somehow been stuck with.

"Don't look at me like that Steely-"

"Steeljaw."

Thunderhoof didn't miss a beat. "It's not like we're wasting our own resources here. It was so easy to drill into that human reservoir, they might as well have been begging us to take some of their water. And they'll never be none the wiser."

Reassuring as the logic was, it didn't make him any happier.

"I just find the whole thing to be rather frivolous. And an unnecessary distraction to boot."

"That's cause you never relax. Which you should, tension ain't good for the kiddos."

Pinning back his ears, Steeljaw sat up and gave Thunderhoof a good hard stare before he replied. "You'll want to refrain from giving me advice on how to carry. I don't see your midsection swelling up."

"I ain't speakin' as a sire to a mamma. Just a bot helping another bot out. Yous been working too hard." Thunderhoof reassured, slinging the towel over his shoulders.

"Someone has to. We're finally in a position to secure some real territory, and we can't afford to slip up." Steeljaw clipped, making to go back to his tablet and start working again.

Thunderhoof stepped forward and whisked away the tablet, holding it up high and out of reach. "If you takin a quick break is really all it takes to sink us, we're in way worse shape then I thought."

"You're well aware of what I mean." Steeljaw said, glaring and pouting helplessly. He had no way of getting his tablet back with his height and condition, forcing him to remain a more or less captive audience.

"Yeah, and you know what I mean. One break ain't gonna end everything. You gotta take care of yourself every once in a while."

"Should I ask what that would entail?"

"I got an idea..."

"Would you like to share?"

Thunderhoof tapped his digits on the data pads surface, smiling smugly before he answering.

"How about a shower?"

Chapter Text

Steeljaw dug his claws hard into the tiled wall, letting the tips crack through and chip the white ceramic as he clung to it for a grip. He was only a little off balance standing on one leg, but he had plenty of support from another pair of strong hands.

"That's it mamma, you just take it nice an easy..."

Thunderhoof purred as he pushed deeper into the valve being presented to him, holding the one leg up and out of the way to keep his access easy. Steeljaw was proving very eager to work with him. A wonder, considering how much convincing it had taken to get him out of bed. But here they were now, hot and steamy in the shower and loving every thrust. Thunderhoof felt himself smirk with pride as the carrying cons belly shook in time with every thrust, the weight of his multiple sparklings within giving the carrier considerable heft. Making so many babies was clearly proof of his virility, something he doubted he'd ever get tired of noticing.

Dipping a hand down, Thunderhoof used a supporting limb to keep Steeljaw spread so he could rub the exposed valve to bring the finish to them both sooner. The hot water flowing down over them helped him rub the swelled clit with greater ease, and he made fast, tight circles. Steeljaw groaned and pushed himself into the rubbing, leaving marks in the wall as he dragged his claws downwards. The strange pose was creating some pain in his hips, but he couldn't have cared less as an orgasm crept closer.

"Aw, yeah, almost there..." Thunderhoof praised, feeling himself going tight down low in preparation. Watching Steeljaw moan and shake with pleasure in the heat of the steam and the glistening water was certainly a wonderful way to end the evening.

"Hngh, Hoof." Steeljaw grunted, throwing a hand to his belly for support as a hot pressure started building between his legs. Primus, he'd needed this. Badly. There was so much need to have transfluid in him right at this very moment... Why didn't he go for this sooner? These sparklings were so heavy, and big, and in need of all the help he could get.

Gritting his dentae, Thunderhoof pulled in close as his overload came, spurting a hot and sizable load into the depths of his very eager mate. Steeljaw gasped at the surge of warmth and expansion inside of him. The burst pushed him over his own edge, and he clamped down and around the spike inside him to milk his mate for everything he had to give. His body immediately pulled in the much needed fuel for the sparkling development, rewarding him for the efforts with bursts of pleasure that made his legs go limp. Thankfully, he was in a very strong pair of arms that let the two of them slip gently to the wet floor. For a few good moments they laid in silence, huffing in exhaustion as they regained themselves in the sauna like atmosphere.

"Feeling better?"

Steeljaw flicked an ear in the direction of the question, taking one big breath before responding with more civility than one mighy expect. "That was certainly relaxing. Thank you." The Cervicon huffed with pride, rolling to a sitting position and leaning his generous rack against the wall.

"Guess not all my ideas are so terrible, eh?"

There it was. But the tired carrier to be was too tired and satisfied to take the bait. With far more trouble than his partner, he pushed his body into an upright position, using the still running water to clean off the remains of their exertions. In comfort, they say together for a while. It wasn't until Steeljaw was confident in his presentability that the soothing sound of a running shower was interrupted by a single word.

"Headsplitter."

Steeljaw flicked both ears on reflex, thinking he must have heard incorrectly.

"What?"

"Perfect name for one of the bitlets." Thunderhoof clarified, resting his servos behind his head. Frowning at the thought, Steeljaw played the word in his mind. It didn't sound like anything he'd name a child of his own.

"I don't think so."

"Why not? It's tough, and likely to be accurate."

"It's crude. A name should be accurate, but not... so specific." Steeljaw replied, keeping his calm in the relaxed nature of the room. Perhaps he had needed this even more than he'd thought. Something to relax him on a deeper level, to the point where even his comrades childish habits didn't bother him at all.

"You got any ideas then?"

"It's not so simple, I've discovered. I will need to see them first. Then I will feel prepared to give them their designations. We've no idea what they will look like, or fight like."

"Hmmm..." Thunderhoof mused, stroking his chin. Frowning in thought, he finally gave a nod. "Suppose that's true. I'd like to name one of 'em, at least. Particularly one of the gals, if we have one..."

"If there is one, you can do that much." Steeljaw said, not too bothered by the concession. The odds of a femme weren't very high. He'd more than likely not have to make good on such a promise.

"I'll hold ya to that." Thunderhoof said with a grin, getting his pedes underneath him as he stood back up. Steeljaw followed, using his tail like an extra limb to push his rounded body to its feet. Settling as the weight inside him shifted, he let out a deep vent from the exertion. Primus, he'd forgotten what it was to be unburdened... His mate either didn't notice or understand his dilemma, and his space was invaded by a pat on his ample swell. "We got a while, at least."

"Not too long." Steeljaw muttered, watching Hoof turn off the water and giving a small shake to start the drying process.

"I'll be there to catch once they start popping out." Thunderhoof promised in a brag, grabbing the towel they had available and giving his antlers a polish.

"Hm." Steeljaw grunted, suddenly feeling a worm of uncertainty in his gut. The thought of having anyone see him so... vulnerable, made him uncomfortable. He would be struggling through physical exertions like he'd never known, and having anyone see him in such a state would only make it worse. No, he doubted he'd have company. It wasn't anything personal. There was no one he'd want seeing him in the throes of labor. But he had a while left to prepare, at least. And Thunderhoof at least deserved to be humored. He'd certainly proven he was worthy of that much.

And sharing a bed, if course.

Chapter Text

The scent of warm, sweet sparkling energon filled Steeljaws nostrils as he took a deep breath of contentment. Smiling to himself with a kind of sappy joy, he moved his head to the sound of a small form crawling across the blankets. A tiny pup whimpered as it bumped into his muzzle, his miniscule snout sniffing for guidance as he searched blindly. Growling with affection, he used his head to push the bitlet back to the group, nestling him amongst all the other snoozing newborns. He settled with a quick snuffle of comfort, his tiny form curling up to stay warm amongst the fat and happy bundles. Steeljaw let himself settle for a nap alongside them, exhausted but far too content to care. His newborns were here, safe, and very well fed. He'd call that a victory worth celebrating...

"Agghhh..."

A sharp, tight pain in his gut made him gasp and lift his head with a hiss. The hot agony washed away the pleasant haze of his half sleep and the dream he didn't know he'd been having. In a single moment he found himself back in reality, where his pups were still coiled and crowded in his near bursting belly. Venting deeply through his muzzle, he put a few tender claws over the swell to center himself and get a feel for what was happening. Another wave of pain in the same spot cleared his processor enough for the obvious to register.

The pups were on their way. Finally.

A cringe pulled on his lips in utter distaste at the inconvenience of the timing. Of course, in the middle of the night, when he was in bed beside an overprotective sire.

Cracking his optics open, he looked over to Thunderhoof, who was fast asleep on his back and snoring without a care. Primus willing, he would stay that way... Sucking in a bracing vent, he rolled to get his pedes on the floor, struggling to make as little noise as possible. The process was slowed by how terribly off balance he was and how much strain the pain was putting on him, but eventually he managed to get himself off the bed. Setting his pedes on the ground, he grimaced as a new pain formed in his stomach. Hissing through the discomfort, he cradled his belly and ventilated like the few data pads he'd found had suggested, riding through the contraction until it faded. Putting careful attention to his noise, he started walking to the door, praying he could be free of any incidents.

"Eh, what's up?"

Apparently not.

"I'm hungry. I'm going to get something to eat." He said, looking back to the half awake mech. Keeping his tone flat, he watched for any sign of detection. He was prepared to make a break for it, if necessary. Thunderhoof yawned and rubbed at his optics.

"Want company?"

"No." He clipped, not intending to sound do desperate or curt. It was a little hard to act calm when a brood was starting to push down, after all.

"Whatev... See ya later." Came the slurred response. As the big mech fell back asleep, Steeljaw heaved a sigh of relief and started moving. It wasn't anything personal. He just... really needed to be alone for this. Something told him he wouldn't want anyone to see what he was about to go through. Not that it mattered. He was in the clear. Now he just needed to grab some supplies.

Sneaking was hard with an aching belly, but he found his ages of experience made it go without a problem. Gathering up the kit he'd hidden amongst the various corners and crevices of the base, he was only a little bit winded by the time he had a bag full of everything he believed he would need. Slipping out the exit, he headed off into the cold forest, shivering in the dark as he stepped into the now familiar path. The pain was regular enough now for him to predict when it would come, and still bearable enough that he could keep moving while it rippled through his belly. Not that it was easy, of course. The dense tangle of earth vegetation had him panting in an embarrassing amount of time, and even the light bag in his arms was starting to feel very heavy.

"For the pups..." He whispered into the darkness, feeling the swell where they were wiggling just below the surface. The group was about as active as they usually were, despite the unusual circumstances. As a sharp pain started up once more, making him wince and add a quick addendum. "Who'd better be worth it..."

By the time he got to his secret sanctuary, he was ventilating hard and fast and had to stop to let the tremble leave his legs. Grimacing through another contraction, he pulled the boulder aside with shaking arms and maneuvered himself into the tunnel as best he could. Pulling the blockage back to keep himself protected, he collapsed back into a sitting position, chest heaving and back aching from the simple effort. He rolled into his front and began to crawl his way back into the sanctuary, wanting desperately just to have a place to curl up and sleep away this already unpleasant exhaustion and discomfort. The perfectly sized den was a welcome relief, and he took a moment to lie back and busy himself with the unpacking of his supplies. There was the miniature heater, some refreshments for energy, ample towels and cleaning supplies... He only hoped it would all be enough.

Another contraction, stronger and more intense, made him groan and press his head into the cool wall. He felt the weight in his belly shift downwards by no more than an inch, the pups inside of him pushing down into his pelvis with the pain only to roll back into position when it stopped. Some part of him knew that this was going to be a horribly slow march of progress, based on how little had just happened. He'd have to busy himself, clearly. Thankfully there was much to do.

Everything had to be soft and warm to the touch, as well as clean. First would come the blankets, each and every one laid out carefully to cover the moss and stone and form a natural bed. The pups would need every surface to be gentle on their delicate newborn mesh, and so not a crevice could go uncovered. The pain came steadily as he worked, occasionally stiffening his belly with slowly advancing contractions that seemed to make no progress. For the most part, he just worked with the discomfort and pain in a kind of trance, letting his hands move without too much supervision to cover the den in a comfy nest of blankets. Without meaning to, he started ventilating deeply and rocking in place, blowing out hot puffs of air on every forward motion. His claws worked together with deep set programming he didn't know he had, guiding the formation of a nest he never knew he could make. It wasn't until he rather unexpectedly found the thing finished that conscious thought resurfaced, and with it came the pain in full force.

Something hot and wet trickled down from between his legs and made him shudder. Unable to see past his belly, he used the first of what would probably be many cleaning rags to wipe up what he could feel, pulling back the cloth back up to see it dampened by the pale blue and clear mix of lube and reproductive fluid. His seal was opening then. This was the first part of active labor, where his body would try to lubricate the birth channel and free itself of unnecessary hindrances. And he couldn't help but find it a little gross. Holding the towel betwixt his thighs, he clicked on the heater and plopped onto his side. Ventilating evenly, he tuned in to the handmade machines noises of operation. Letting his glossa loll out like a panting dog, he took deep gulps and let out hard exhales, breaking the pattern occasionally with a deep groan. He was thankful no one could see this.

Nightbeat... He mused to himself, trying to focus on the end result of his efforts for comfort. A good name for my build and Hoofs colors... And the others...

He let out a low whine as the pain peaked, another warm gush coating the inside of his thighs. It felt like a hunk of solid stone was trying to force it's way downward, bringing his guts with it.

"How about, Pain in My Valve?!" He hissed, glaring daggers at his belly. The sparklings inside only continued their steady squirming as usual, oblivious. Flattening his ears, he laid his head back down, huffing in misery. Most pains he'd endured he could do something about. Seek out medical aid, practice some healing on himself, take some painkillers, something. But here, he was helpless. All he could do was sit and wait for his body to get things going, and there was no telling how long that would take.

More hot fluids trickling down his legs and a burst of pain made him snarl and roll onto his hands and knees. Huffing in greedy gulps of air, he started pushing with more intent, hissing a few hot breaths onto the cave walls. He could feel every last one of these brats refusing to move. They'd been feeding off of him for months, and now couldn't even be bothered to take the exit when it was offered.

A miserable howl slipped past his lips as the contraction twisted deeper in his gut than before. It seemed one of them was accepting the offer and finally moving into the birthing canal. Spreading his legs and pressing his head to the cool wall, he started to push in time to the contractions, rocking his body in a desperate bid to speed things along. Everything below his hips was a maelstrom of pressure and pain and fire, and there was nothing he could do about it except try to end it faster. Every bit of advice he'd read up on was gone. Nothing existed except some raw instincts and his own guesses. And his hatred for Thunderhoof. He'd be tearing off that spike the moment he had the opportunity.

A new pain, hot and stinging, crowned betwixt his legs. Crying out and letting a few tears burn at the edge of his optics, he continued his hard pushes, desperately willing the pup to just come out.

Chapter Text

On instinct and what remained of his common sense, he put both his hands beneath himself, cupping them. He didn't care about the dripping amniotic fluid getting all over his claws as he did so, or the painful stretch the position caused, he just knew it would make everything go faster. Something solid and round between his legs caught his attention. Not thinking about the implications of that, he encircled it, guiding it out with shaking hands.

Get out... He pleaded, the words in his mind rapidly becoming a chant on his lips. "Get out, get out get out..."

Inch by agonizing inch, he was able to guide the offending sparkling free. Snarling and cursing every movement, he huffed out of his muzzle and bared his teeth as the widest part of the shoulders started to crown. Stars started spotting his vision as he stretched beyond what he thought was his limits, but he still kept pushing, desperate to just end it all. There was a horrible lurch inside of him as the sparkling slipped halfway out of him, hanging for a moment before he gave the final heave.

A solid weight settled in his cupped hands along with an audible splash, a guttural roar escaping him as the agony nearly bowled him over. Hanging on the verge of passing out, he pulled himself back from the blackness with a few shaking gasps, his whole body quaking in weakness.

It wasn't until a soft sound in his hands caught his attention that he came back to full awareness. Terrified and unprepared, he lifted the bundle up to see it, arms trembling the whole while. Another tiny noise, a whimper this time, came from the little thing as he finally saw it. Though it was wet and dirty, he immediately recognized his offspring. The tiny Wolficon let out a small cry from his impossibly miniature muzzle. Steeljaw adjusted him as if he would break, holding him to his chest and trying to process. Whimpering now in earnest, the newborn let out a few coughs, sliding its tiny, nubbed paws over his armor.

"Hello there..." Steeljaw whispered, giving a tender lick across a chubby cheek. Snuffling, the bitlet pushed him away, beginning to fuss as it came to. Chuckling, he let his instincts guide him to gentle grooming. Soft greens became visible beneath the mess. He recognized the variant of his own colors and nuzzled the silky smooth armor, breathing in the sweet scent of his pup with a sigh. "My little one..."

The sparkling gave a wiggle against the attention, not too happy to be out in the cold. He laughed, never having felt happier. Pulling back, he watched as two optics cracked open for the first time, revealing a bright red glow. A bit of Thunderhoof. He settled another kiss on the sparklings cheeks, which smushed up considerably due to its ample chub. The attention made the bitlet sneeze, it's disproportionate ears flopping at the movement as it pushed at him with nubby claws. Were it up to him, he'd have stayed in that moment forever, holding his newborn and basking in his perfect little being.

A sharp pain in his midsection made him gasp. The beauty of the moment disappeared and forced him to remember; he had four more to birth. Groaning, he transferred the pup to a single hand, grabbing hold of the aches epicenter with the other. There was a moment of panic as he juggled the task before him. First, he'd have to tend to his sparkling, making sure he was warm and safe... Then he could work on getting the rest out.

Grabbing a towel, he used it to aid his tongue in cleaning, smiling despite everything as his bitlet squirmed fearlessly under the touch. He'd never been more proud of anything in his life. So little and already so small, this one would be a fighter some day. Still smiling through his winces, he laid his newborn down beside the heater, swaddle him to prevent escape. Snuffling at the new arrangement, the bitlet settled at last into the warmth. He'd hopefully be content until all of his siblings were out and ready. However long that would be.

A stinging pain between his legs gave him the smallest hope it wouldn't be long. Somehow pushing out the first one hadn't given him any confidence, however, and he was just as uncertain about how to free the next as he'd been about the first. Crawling a good space away so he had freedom to move but could still see his sparkling, he got to work. There was a little less pain on his knees, so he settled in that position, breathing deeply to relax. He could already feel the familiar pressure of a pup dropping once more. All he could do was hope he was a little stretched out so this would take less pushing...

Grunting hard and long, he heaved down with the contractions, ears pinned back as the pain tore into his lower body. Pressure started forming an epicenter in no time. A tiny form began to drop in a hard and immobile mass that seemed intent on shattering his already overstretched pelvis. As before, he ignored it. His bitlet had already slipped off into a doze from their own exhaustion, leaving him to gasp and curse freely without fearing for tarnishing their delicate ears. More hot fluids gushed out to dampen the inside of his legs, making him grimace with discomfort. He'd need a serious bath after all of this.

White hot fire burned as a head began to crown, making his vision blur with tears of pain as he pushed regardless. Whether it moved faster, he couldn't say. All he could really gather was that he was struggling for every inch just like last time. The solid bundle made him fight every step of the way, his digits tugging gently as he heaved to slide the head to the halfway point. As before, it popped free once it was past its widest point, leaving him wincing but still determined. The pressure was overtaking the pain now, making him curse as he once again felt like all of his guts were about to squeeze out. Huffing in a few ridiculous breaths, he heaved again, this time hitting the shoulders.

"Get out..." He hissed again, turning the words into motivation. "Get out, get out get oouuuaaahhh!"

Far faster than before, fast enough he almost dropped it, the bundle plopped into his hands. Unlike before, it began to wiggle immediately, squirming in his grip. He lifted them to see. A wiggling bitlet let out a wail as it faced him at last, his little paws kicking out in distress. Steeljaw smiled again through his panting, pulling his second born close and grooming them despite their protests. He stopped in surprise when his glossa met two little bumps while grooming the helm, and he pulled back to see the beggining of antler buds. On his back, he could also see the blossoming of spots that marked young cervicons. Yet there were still the paws and muzzle of a wolficon. Truly, the little bundle in his hands was a thorough hybrid. Thunderhoof would never shut up about this one...

Despite that, he lapped the bitlet as clean as he could, nuzzling them the whole while. He loved his little newborn all the same. The tiny sparkling was feisty as could be, stirring his faith that he'd created a strong and healthy brood. By the time he was preparing to birth the next, he'd already swaddled the pup and was laying him next to his dozing sibling. Both reacted to the others presence, each scooting closer and snuffling until they were snuggled and content. Now in something resembling a rythym, Steeljaw returned to his spot, feeling a bit of a tremble in his limbs. He was already a little tired from his efforts, despite not yet being halfway done. All he wanted was to get this over with and rest.

His body must have been on the same page, as in moments he was pushing again with much faster progress, the bundle of the next sparkling dropping down into his lower body with little resistance. Heaving again, he found the pain no less agonizing. But he knew how to work with it now, so it didn't scare him as much. The insides of his legs were already soaked by the time crowning brought a fresh gush of fluids. He'd have to burn most of these cloths... A few carefully timed breaths and a push later, he was cradling the next head, now sweating out a thick layer of coolant. No battle had ever been so taxing. With a shaking hand, he grabbed a cube he'd brought for such an occasion, puncturing the seal before bringing it in for slow sips. A few drops slipped off his muzzle in his haste.

He set the half empty cube down when the contractions started hitting their peak. Finishing up with a few final gulps of air, he heaved with one long groan, holding the push until the sparkling finally plopped free in a near overpowering rush.

"Whooaaa!"

He scrambled as something far larger than just one sparkling nearly dropped out of his hands. Quick reactions kept him from dropping the precious bundle, his shaking arms pulling it up in a rush to his heaving chest to gather balance. Much to his surprise, he was greeted by two whimpering sparklings, their tiny forms tangled together in a gooey mess. Chuckling in between vents, he nuzzled both of them. He'd never have guessed he could birth two at once. Yet here they were, beggining to test out their new limbs and squirm. As before he let instinct lead, this time sinking to the ground for a bit of a rest. One showed signs of spots with no horns, while the other was the opposite. Both were cute as could be. As he laid all four together, he paused to nuzzle his snout in the middle of them all, breathing in their sweet scent. He'd never loved anything so much in his entire life. They were so tiny and perfect, and he'd made them all. Even as the pain of the last emergence gripped his belly, he stayed smiling.

This time, too tired to raise, he lay on his side. Huffing a few breaths, he pushed in a haze, only a little aware of the pain. His fifth came in less of a rush and more of a gentle slide, making him shudder as he finally finished. Huffing and shaking, he pulled the bitlet to him, recognizing a femme on the spot. She was full cervicon, with only a few of his features to mark her dual parentage. Bright yellow optics glared at him in tiny fury. Chuckling, he cleaned her despite her tiny kicks, curling up beside his brood and getting comfortable. His body settled into the blankets as he pulled all five offspring to his chest, his plates opening to reveal a host of prepared feeding tubes that fell into his waiting hands. Dreamily, he put each pup to a tube, watching as they each took a nozzle into their mouths and began to suckle. Warmth came from his spark as he felt his brood feed. They were here, safe, and healthy. He'd done it. All those months, all that pain, finally done... All he could hear was the sound of gentle suckling and whimpers as tiny beings fed and slid across each other to get as warm and snuggled as could be.

Exhaustion anchored him to the spot, tempting him with sleep. Sighing, he acquiesced. There would be so much to do when he woke, he deserved to take this time. Just he and his pups, safe and content.

Chapter Text

There was a soft warmth pushing against his cheek when he woke. A gentle little something tapped against his muzzle in a slow pattern, rousing him bit by bit until he cracked open his optics to find a tiny snout bumping against his. Smiling, he lifted his heavy head to give the bitlet a better look, finding his sight aided by a few streaks of daylight seeping in.

The pup had his optics closed but was snuffling the air, his minute nose up and working hard with gentle puffs. It was hard to say if he was looking for something particular or just exploring. Regardless, Steeljaw took the bitlet into his mouth, grabbing him just behind the scruff and plopping him down by his belly. The small disturbance set off a domino effect, waking each of the snoozing pups until all were sniffing and whimpering in a batch of squirming cuteness.

"Hello, little ones..." He comforted, curling his tail closer to keep them near to his warmth. Two latched on to his still exposed feeding tubes, guzzling down the fresh morning batch of energon. Smiling at the initiative, he set the others up, not having to provide much coaxing and instead  just offering gentle nudges until they got the idea. Listening to the suckling, he felt his lids growing heavy once more, and was tempted to return to a restful sleep again for the sake of his still exhausted body. But he knew better. The real world had been moving the entire time he'd been asleep, and his absence was probably already noticed. He'd have to return soon.

A tiny yawn and a small body rolling over to expose a fat and content belly made him pause. Watching the little Cervipup nap so contentedly was more than a little tempting. Couldn't the outside wait just a little bit longer? One at a time, the other bitlets finished their breakfasts and curled up to rest, looking so cute and comfortable he almost gave in for a nap of his own. But hard logic prevailed. Letting out a sigh, he clicked his comm link back into function, albeit hesitantly. He needed to get back into contact with Thunderhoof, lest the great brute tear the mountain apart looking for him. The channel was glutted with desperate contact attempts, complete with a few amateur tracking signals. His mate had been busy.

Cranking down the volume as low as it could go, he initiated a contact.

*Thunder-*

*WHERE ARE YOU?!*

His ears pinned down in agony as the assault on his audials echoed with a head splitting whine, the reverberations growing so powerful that the once napping bitlets immediately began to cry at the scare. Growling at the inconvenience, he hushed and comforted the squirming pile before turning the comm on one way.

*You'll want to drop the tone, if you want answers.* He ordered, giving one particularly upset newborn a gentle lick across the helm. There was a barrage of attempted contacts that he muted, giving the other mech a chance to cool off. Hopefully, at least. If he didn't, Steeljaw would just go radio silent and get some more rest. There was no hurry on his end, within reason.

A lull in the furious static marked a new opportunity for contact. Not getting his hopes up, he opened himself up for communication.

The voice was as insistent as it was controlled. *Where are you?*

*Nearby. I'm safe. They're safe.*

*They?*

Thunderhoof sounded more disappointed than Steeljaw could have expected in a single word, but he felt only a flash of guilt. He'd needed to do this alone, and he'd had the right to do so, even if his mate was a little wounded by the gesture. Giving the now calm sparkling another tender lick, he responded calmly.

*Yes, they. Five in total.*

There was a silence afterwards, that dragged on long enough to be awkward.

*Why did yous leave?*

The accusation in the question made his ears pin back in a mix of anger and discomfort. He'd made the decision to give birth alone, but he didn't really want to justify it. Would Thunderhoof have wanted to be watched in his most vulnerable hours? He certainly doubted it.

*Does it matter? They're here, they're healthy, and they're ready to be taken back to the base of you'll assist me.*

*So now yous want my help...*

Steeljaw licked a sparkling to avoid saying something to ignite the situation further.

*Your assistance will make this much easier. I have a pod I made for their transportation, it's hidden in my lab behind the storage crates. I'll send you my coordinates, and you can bring it here.*

*If this thing is so important for moving em, why leave it at the base? Why not bring it with yous?*

Looking long and hard at the bundle of squirming newborns snuggled up to his belly, the Wolficon pondered the wording to his reply very carefully.

*Because I always intended for you to be involved, Thunderhoof. Just on my own terms.*

There was silence from the other end, but it didn't feel cold. Breaking it himself, Steeljaw curled tighter around his pups.

*I'm sending you my location. Don't keep me waiting.*

Chapter Text

Despite his desire to stay awake and the strange, almost anxious feeling in his gut, Steeljaw found himself near to nodding off as he waited in the den. Despite a full night of rest, his body was still drained. Which was understandable. For all of his incredible strength, giving birth five times would have left anyone feeling weak. To keep from slipping in to recharge, he focused on his pups, taking note of their differences to better tell them apart in the future. Most were a good blend of himself and their sire. One in particular looked to be himself in miniature, save for two nubs that would one day be antlers and a darker shade of blue armor. In fact, despite what he'd thought he'd seen in the darkness, all of them had the marking of growth that would be antlers, as well as the faint spots in their coloring that was seen in newborn Cervicons. Thunderhoof clearly had some powerful genetics on his side, the brute.

As if thinking of his mate suddenly triggered his focus, he realized at that moment one of the pups was hardly a pup at all. Pulling them in for inspection, he was greeted by a wiggling, angry newborn that was Cervicon in every way, save only for a tail like his. And an even closer look revealed her to be the only femme of the group. Figures, he supposed. He remembered faintly noticing these features at her birth, but the whole ordeal was already such a blur that he could barely get the details together. At her surprisingly strong squirming in his grip, he found himself smiling in pride, giving her a few loving licks on the helm. She was still his, regardless, and he adored her implicitly.

Letting her rejoin her siblings, he pondered naming. Thunderhoof would name the femme, but that still left four pups to think of names for. Their unique physical characteristics would make for some good starting points, but it would probably be worth waiting a bit for their personalities to show through. If he recalled, he'd gotten his name after biting his sire hard enough to draw energon as a pup...

His ear flicked when the faintest thud was captured by his senses. The sound was something he had more than enough close up experience with to identify on the spot, and he shakily got up on all fours to respond. Thunderhoof was approaching with his usual lack of grace and stealth, perhaps even moreso than usual. Though his body ached with every movement, he guided the bitlets nudge by nudge to the exit, leaving most of the supplies to be reclaimed at a later date. The newborns protested the move every step of the way, but were limited to wiggling and whimpering to show their disapproval. Shushing them between pants of exertion, he stopped when they were just in front of the boulder sealing the entrance, his whole body shaking from just the effort of crawling a short distance. He recovered as he listened to Thunderhoof approach, his audials catching the hurried footsteps as they tore through the forest without grace or any attempt at stealth. The ground shook as he finally arrived outside, his tired ventilation audible before he got on the comm without hesitation.

"I'm here, where the frag are yous?" Thunderhoof demanded through their channel, though he was close enough that Steeljaw could hear him through the earth. Huffing at the usual crassness, he replied with a scolding.

"Watch the language in front of the children, Thunderhoof." He said through his comm, despite being close enough that his mate could probably hear him. A little more softly, he explained. "If you simply remove the boulder, you'll see."

There wasn't a moment of hesitation before the great hunk of stone was pulled free and tossed aside as if it weighed nothing, the sudden flash of morning light and the resulting bang setting the sparklings into a flurry of whimpers of frightened squirming. Kneeling over the babies, Steeljaw assumed a protective stance as he found himself optic to optic with their sire, a natural distrustful instinct keeping him poised to attack if need be. Thunderhoof was on his knees as well, his optics going to Steeljaw and then to the bundle of sparklings he'd helped create. The ordinarily loud and crass mech was silent in visible awe. As their babies finally started to settle, he seemed to find his voice.

"That's eh... that's them, huh?" He asked in a failed attempt to sound casual. There was obvious desire in his optics to hold and touch his newborns, but he was smart enough not to push it yet. There was a kind of... ritual, to this meeting, that neither knew but somehow full understood.

"All five, yes. Healthy and here, at last." Steeljaw replied, taking his optics off Thunderhoof and dropping them to the bitlets. They'd managed to pull themselves all together in a single pile to cuddle and start napping again, their tiny bodies rising and falling in gentle ventilation.

"They looks like us." Thunderhoof remarked, a smile betraying him.

"That is how genetics work." Steeljaw replied with his own chuckle. Regaining himself, he returned to thoughts of how exposed they were. "Do you have the pod?"

Looking like he'd been snapped out of a dream, Thunderhoof reached behind him. He held an oval metal container just small enough to fit under the arm. "Yeah, right here. What makes it so special? I could have just gotten a basket."

"It's temperature controlled, waterproof, bulletproof, and hides their EM fields." Steeljaw replied evenly, making the Cervicon blush as he tried to look over the plain looking pod for signs of the complexity Steeljaw had described.

"Suppose that's probably a lot safer." He finally concluded, offering it to Steeljaw. Rather than taking it, he pushed it to the ground between them.

"I'll allow you to lay them inside. Someone has to teach you how." Steeljaw said, measuring every word in the hopes Thunderhoof would pick up on the significance of what he was saying. The wide optics told him he did. He was trusting him to hold them, to touch them for the first time, and to lay them out safely so they could be brought home. It was as much a sign of trust as it was a test.

"Right. Of course." Thunderhoof croaked, thankfully recognizing the full weight of his situation. Steeljaw started with the smallest, a little mech that was a good blend of their shared features. He began to snuffle and whimper as he was pulled from the warmth of his siblings. Thunderhoof tried not to shake as he offered his hands.

"Keep his whole body supported, especially the helm. Lay him down on his back, and he'll sort out the position he wants." Steeljaw advised, laying the bitlet down into the offered servos. Thunderhoof let the tiny weight settle into his palms with a blink, his face going blank and his body still shaking as he froze in terrified awe. Pleasing as the reaction was, the sparkling didn't take too kindly to the trembling and started to whimper anew.

"The shaking won't help." He advised after clearing his vents for emphasis. Thunderhoof looked thoroughly embarrassed, but did as he was previously advised without comment, laying the Cervipup in the pod. The two of them silently repeated the process with each one. There was a pause as each bitlet was settled in Thunderhoofs hands, his delay only lasting as long as it took for him to look over the sparkling and take in their features. Subtle as he likely thought he was, there was no hiding the pride in his optics each time he saw one of his features. At last, they came to the femme, and Steeljaw braced himself before handing her over.

"Eeyoo, that's what I'm talking about!" The mob boss boasted, holding up his near miniature to the sun. She wiggled and gave a tiny scowl, prompting him to bring her in close for inspection. The moment she was within range, the tiny femme snapped her head forward, giving her sire a not insignificant clang on the mouth. Steeljaw was immediately mortified, but Thunderhoof only laughed with pride. "That's my girl! Chip off the 'ol block!"

"She'll be much safer at the base, so if we could get moving...?" Steeljaw prompted, thrilled to see him so excited but feeling exposed out of his den. Thunderhoof acquiesced and let the femme join her siblings, pausing to admire the cuddled newborns before closing the pod. He stood and offered a servo to Steeljaw, who realized only then that he did indeed need the help. His body was still aching and exhausted from its efforts, and the simple trek to the base would probably take what little he had left. But, for the sake of his sparklings, it would be done.

Accepting the help, he got shakily to his pedes, leaving the den behind him. He'd come back for supplies later. For now, it was just him, his mate, and their sparklings on their first walk together. He'd try to enjoy what he could.