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Skywarp grinned, and turned to Thundercracker, motioning his wingmate to silence as they crept into the rec room. There, sticking out from under the still broken console, was Starscream’s lower half. His wings were folded back and pressed in to allow him deeper beneath the computer, and Skywarp knew he was too involved in repairing the wiring to have noticed his wingmates entering the otherwise empty room.

Skywarp inched closer, a mischievous grin plastered to his lips. He could hear Starscream now, stringing along various curses and obscenities as he worked.

“Frelling moronic, Pit-spawned, slag-heap of wasted circuitry.”

Skywarp suppressed the snicker at the quiet tirade as he crouched down, so close now to his goal, and reached forward.

Starscream continued on in ignorance. “Can’t touch anything without breaking it.”

Skywarp pressed his lips together so the giggle wouldn’t escape, and moved his fingers closer to the side seam of Starscream’s armor. His timing would have to be perfect. “Little bastard! Gonna rip his arms off and beat him to death with them.”

There was a jerk and the sound of static discharging, and Skywarp paused, unsure of Starscream’s next move. “No! Nearly to death. Then I’ll rip his fragging head off and stuff it up his aft!”

There was another jerk, and Starscream sighed. “What a slagging mess.” Skywarp yanked his own arm back as Starscream pulled out a wad of badly tangled wires and dropped them on the floor by his feet without looking out.

Skywarp made his move, lithe fingers darting between plating to tickle along sensitive circuitry. “I’m bloody well gonna kill hi- Ahhh!” Clang! “Slagging Pits!”

Skywarp danced back away fast as Starscream jerked back from beneath the console. His wings popped back open with a whir and a click as the seeker spun to see who would dare-

Oh, but of course, Starscream thought while rubbing the back of his head. He felt his irritation leaving, not that he’d show them though. Skywarp was sitting on the edge of a table, the very picture of innocence. His legs swung free and he smiled in a beguiling way that Starscream forced himself to look away from before his dark scowl melted. He cast his glare over to Thundercracker who was comically pointing with both index fingers at Skywarp.

Starscream stood slowly and stalked toward Thundercracker. Thundercracker shook his head, hands coming up, palms out to ward off Starscream. “No way, Star. It really was Warp. I swear!”

“You could have said something,” Starscream snarled, and congratulated himself on sounding thoroughly slagged off.

Thundercracker’s mouth opened, but he never got a chance to respond. Starscream dove suddenly to his right and tackled a giggling Skywarp to the floor. Thundercracker laughed, and dove in.

~ | ~

Megatron sighed, and then glanced around surreptitiously to be sure none had noticed his lapse, but he was alone. He was on his way to find his Second and was sure that the subject of discussion with Starscream was going to ruin the recent peace between them. Lamentable, but necessary

He knew Starscream was still trying to repair the console damaged before the Dirge Disaster, as it had become known. He also knew that the seeker was likely to be in a particularly dark mood since the guilt-ridden Rumble had attempted to “fix” the computer to make up for his rather crude and boisterous disbelief of Starscream’s attack. Rumble and delicate equipment were never a favorable mix.

Megatron paused at the door, hearing a loud crash emanate from beyond it. Not such a surprise. He was, however, a bit shocked to hear the uncontrolled shrieked of laughter that followed that crash.

And that would be the pride of Decepticon aerial combat.

Megatron took a moment to be certain his expression was suitably serious, then open the door. His entrance went unnoticed.

A table was overturned, some chairs were scattered about, and across the room Skywarp lay pinned to the floor by Starscream, who was straddling his hips. Starscream and Thundercracker had their backs to the door, and Skywarp’s vision was effectively blocked by his wingmates’ wings. Thundercracker was kneeling over Skywarp’s knees, holding Starscream’s arms in the air while Skywarp dug his fingers into the gaps of Starscream’s armor. And there, trapped between his wingmates, shrieking and laughing like a youngling gone mad, was the Air Commander himself.

Megatron pressed his lips together. It simply wouldn’t do for him to burst out laughing. No matter how funny it was.

“Primus! Stop!” More helpless laughter sounded from Starscream. Thundercracker shifted his grip to a full headlock as Skywarp half sat and re-intensified his attack.

There was another scream, and Megatron winced. His creator named him aptly, he thought, and watched as his best seekers tickled their commander nearly senseless.

Starscream twisted hard and knocked both himself and Thundercracker over to the side. Skywarp simply followed, shifting enough to block Starscream’s attempt to kick him off.

Gasping and struggling, Starscream laughed, voice arcing to a higher octave, “You’re killing me! I’m dying!”

Megatron was certain to stay quietly out of their sight, not that they were paying any attention, but it was so seldom that he was able to see this side of his protégé anymore. Very, very rarely was Megatron gifted with the experience.

Long ago had Starscream become seemingly obsessed with power too, and had developed the arrogant belief that he could be a better leader than Megatron, but there was always that tiny part of Megatron that would light up to hear Starscream’s laugh. Not the cynical, hateful, contemptuous laugh so often heard by the general population, but that free, uninhibited, surprisingly deep laugh that bubbled forth when the seeker felt safe to be himself.

Megatron hated Starscream and himself all the more for it. There was no room in his life for softness. Even in his more… intimate dealings, he was reserved, and refused to melt until he was safely back in his own quarters alone. Yet he found himself smiling at the trio’s antics.

There was another roll and scatter of thumps, and this time Thundercracker shouted in surprise, then burst out laughing. “Traitor!” he yelped as he desperately tried to curl inward and avoid Starscream’s questing fingers. It was no use of course, not with Skywarp leaning heavily on his arms to pin them to the floor, and Starscream now sitting firmly across Thundercracker’s thighs.

Skywarp laughed, and Starscream made a noise of mock derision while strumming his fingers into the delicate wiring on Thundercracker’s sides just below his arm joints. “Whoever heard of a ticklish Decepticon?” he asked, his voice turning seductive. Starscream leaned forward, bringing his face closer to Thundercracker’s.

Megatron leaned over a table, deciding to interrupt before things became embarrassing. True, he knew that they were all lovers now, but they didn’t know that he knew. What they hadn’t made public, he was content to leave quiet. Especially since he was still concerned over Starscream’s recovery. He’d become more himself since Bane and Blight had been killed, but he was still quiet, even more withdrawn than he had been before. Which was saying something. In the mere eleven days since everything had completely blown up, Megatron had been unable to find the small store of the drug Soundwave had gleaned from Bane’s mind just before Dirge destroyed him. It was not where Bane’s mind had told Soundwave it was. That was yet another problem.

Returning to the moment Megatron made his presence known. “Indeed.”

Three sets of crimson optics locked on to his face in shock. Megatron allowed a small, but genuine smile to surface, and looked directly at Starscream. “What self-respecting Decepticon would scream and giggle on the floor like a sparkling?”

The light, teasing question was laughed at by the other two, but Starscream’s optics hardened as he took the rare joke to be reprisal instead of banter. Megatron bit back a sigh, then he was forced to bite back a laugh of true amusement.

“We’ll hold him down for you, Megatron,” Skywarp suggested with a wicked little grin.

“Alas, I’ll have to decline,” Megatron deadpanned. His reputation would never recover, though the odd urge was there to just play for a change. But no, that would never do, and they’d probably expire from shock if he displayed any of his repressed inclinations.

“Well the offer stands.” Skywarp smiled brightly, and once again Megatron was left wondering if the flyer was really so dense, or just pretending. An effective front, whichever it was. He watched as the three rose to their feet.

Megatron shifted his gaze back to Starscream, who was still glaring balefully at him. “I came regarding a serious matter. I must return briefly to Cybertron.” He watched as a decidedly greedy look washed over his Second’s face. The desire to wipe the expression from Starscream’s face made his voice slightly harsher when he spoke again. “You and Soundwave will share command.”

Starscream’s always mercurial face shifted emotions too quickly to name, but settled in disgust. “I don’t need your pet’s help to rule the Decepticons in your absence.”

“It’s hardly ruling, Starscream. More like babysitting. No one is to the leave the base. Not under any circumstances. And yes, that includes you.” Megatron raised his voice just slightly to talk over Starscream when the other would have interrupted. “I’ll be gone only a few days. You and Soundwave will continue the search for the compound Bane and Blight used.”

Starscream’s mouth dropped open, and Megatron watched as his wingmates instantly -and probably unconsciously- moved closer and more protectively toward him. When he did finally find the words after opening and closing his mouth a few times, Starscream spoke with a venom that even surprised Megatron. “There’s more?!” He stepped closer to the table that separated them, fists clenched tightly. “There’s more of that slag in this very ship, and you didn’t see fit to warn anyone?!”

In a mild state of shock, Megatron answered without measuring his words. “I want it kept quiet that it exists at all.”

A cruel smile quirked Starscream’s lips. They’d played this game entirely too many times for him to have missed the subtle sign. “Afraid someone might just slip you a mickey?” he asked snidely, and settled into a cross-armed, condescending stance.

Megatron fumed, a growl escaping him as Starscream hit too close to the truth. He leaned forward placing his hands on the table between them. Thundercracker and Skywarp took a few quick steps back out of reach. “You will obey me, and you will cooperate with Soundwave in the search,” he snarled in a low and seething voice.

Completely undaunted, Starscream leaned forward also, deliberately placing his hands so that his fingertips rested between Megatron’s own spread digits on the table. So very close, but not actually touching. He then put his face so close to Megatron’s that the other could feel the light ghosting of breath across his lips. It was a blatant invasion of personal space, and served very well to bring home the fear of what the drug could do to any of them if discovered and used again. Megatron ruthlessly fought the urge to even blink. He was… displeased that he had to struggle so hard with himself.

“Star.” Skywarp’s voice was soft and fearful.

Starscream ignored him completely, optics still burning into Megatron’s own, breath still caressing in a way that was something of a violation itself. “You should be afraid,” he growled in a low voice reserved for when he was truly, dangerously enraged. Then just as suddenly, and just as maddeningly as ever, Starscream leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. Voice lighter, but very determined, he said. “I’ll find it. I’ll destroy it. And no one will need to worry over it again.” He gave another cruel grin. “You’ve no need to fear, dear Megatron.”

Megatron despised that Starscream had gotten the upper hand in this argument. And in front of witnesses as well! He could have cheerfully throttled him in that moment. Instead he drew in a steadying breath as calmly as he could, and stood back up to his full height. He cast a glance to both of the other seekers, then returned to Starscream. “Discuss this with no one but Soundwave. He’s been attempting to subtly use his telepathy to track whoever may have beaten us to the cache, but has been unsuccessful.”

Megatron paused, and darkened his glare until he saw a hint of retreat in Starscream’s optics. In a deadly calm tone, he said, “If I return to learn you’ve disobeyed me in anyway, you will very much wish you had opted for Dirge’s way out.”

Tandem gasps left Thundercracker and Skywarp at such a low blow, but Megatron simply spun on his heel, and marched out before Starscream recovered enough to launch into a tantrum.

Starscream held in the scream of outrage until he was positive Megatron would be out of hearing. The screech actually echoed in the large rec room. He spun to see both Thundercracker and Skywarp cringing back away from him.

“Oh stop it! When have I ever hit either of you?”

Skywarp began to open his mouth.

“Shut up!” Starscream snapped, then laughed at the scandalized look he was shot.

Thundercracker shook his head, and rubbed at the back of his neck. “I think I have whiplash from the gear shift there, Star.”

Starscream shrugged, and moved closer. “I just realized that we’ll be absolutely free of our illustrious leader for a few days.” He slipped an arm around Thundercracker’s waist, and without looking held out his other hand for Skywarp to take. “And I also remembered where I was just before we were so rudely interrupted.”

Thundercracker had let his optics slide shut in anticipation of a kiss that seemed slow in coming. He cracked one optic open to see Starscream smiling slyly. He licked his lips, lips oh so close to Thundercracker’s own, and cast Thundercracker a simmering look before skipping back and tugging Skywarp along toward the door.

Thundercracker groaned, and asked, “Who taught you to be such a tease?” before following his lovers back to their quarters.

~ | ~

Starscream twisted the last bundle of wires together with a satisfied flourish and pulled out from below the now -finally - repaired computer console. He heard the door swoosh open, and glanced back. Goodbye, good mood, he thought, then stood after replacing the front panel of the console. He began to reboot the system, deciding to ignore the telepath for the time being.

Soundwave watched Starscream curiously for a moment before speaking. “Starscream informed of collaboration.”

Starscream barely contained the reflexive cringe. He hated Soundwave’s voice. That soft, electronic, oddly melodic monotone was worse than -how did the saying go? Ah yes- nails on a chalkboard. And since Starscream had had the misfortune of hearing Ravage drag his claws down the bulkhead once to stop one of his brothers’ arguments- Well, the reference seemed appropriate.

Soundwave suppressed his irritation when Starscream ignored him. It was always Starscream. No other treated him with such distain. Soundwave despised too, that Starscream had such solid mental walls. It was unnerving for the telepath to never truly know what went through the Second in Command’s mind. “Megatron ordered-”

“I am well aware of what your master ordered, pet. I will be finished here in a moment.”

Soundwave bristled at the dismissive voice. Damn him to the Pit with that ‘pet’ slag!

Starscream pressed his lips together to hold back the smile. If there was anything he enjoyed more than arguing with Megatron- Wait. If there was anything he enjoyed more than arguing with Megatron that didn’t include his wingmates, it was baiting Soundwave into losing his temper. Some days it was tougher than others, but Starscream had a feeling it wouldn’t take much. Soundwave would already be off balance without Megatron around.

Soundwave forced himself to calm down. This was typical Starscream, and nothing he had to concern himself over. He knew the seeker wouldn’t actually harm him. In fact, Starscream rarely engaged in the brawls that were so much a part of the Decepticon definition of fun. He seemed to find such physicality beneath him. Besides, Megatron would rip Starscream apart if he laid a finger on Soundwave. At least, he thought so.

Starscream took his time, but the final diagnostic was nearly complete. He wasn’t entirely sure why Soundwave hated him so much. Not as if he was well loved by anyone other than his wingmates, but Soundwave really hated him. His best guess was that Soundwave had failed in sleeping his way to the top, and hated Starscream for being Megatron’s right hand. Jealousy, he decided once again, had to be the cause. Finished now, he turned and leaned his hip back against the terminal, crossing his arms.

All Soundwave’s self pep talk efforts were wasted when Starscream nonchalantly turned and gazed at him with that malicious grin. He was very glad of the face mask and optic visor that hid his entire face from view. He knew Starscream would take advantage of the scowl Soundwave couldn’t erase.

They continued to stare at each other for a few moments, then Starscream’s grin deepened. “Why don’t you tell me how you’ve failed in your search, and I’ll see what I can do to improve the plan.”

A growl really did escape Soundwave this time. Starscream tsk-tsked, stepped away from the console, moving closer to Soundwave. “You really should control that temper, pet. Whatever would dear Megatron say?”

“Starscream: Fears drug. Suggestion: Let us find it quickly, then commence ignoring one another.”

“Anyone with two processor chips to rub together should be afraid of what that drug can do. Even Megatron fears it.” Starscream moved even closer, and lowered his voice. “It’s telling that you aren’t afraid.” He paused, then just because he knew it would work so well added, “Pet.”

“Do not call me ‘pet’ again.”

Starscream smiled pleasantly. “Don’t be so bitter about failing.”

Soundwave cocked his head to the side, genuinely confused. He nearly forgot to speak in monotone. “We have not failed, and will not.”

“Not the drug, pet.” Starscream purred. “Failure in your efforts to gain my position by being Megatron’s little whore.” Starscream was close to Soundwave now, and saw the slight rage-induced tremor that had begun. He was enjoying this. Keeping his voice in that nearly seductive tone, he pushed a little further. “And everyone knows I got here without such actions.”

Soundwave wasn’t sure who was more surprised. Starscream sure looked it an instant before he raised his right arm and leveled his nullray at Soundwave. Soundwave knew he shouldn’t have struck Starscream. Megatron’s orders or not, Starscream was still his superior in rank, and he was going to be in so much trouble for his lapse in conduct. He hated when Megatron got angry with him.

“Suggestion:” Starscream intoned in his own low monotone, “Leave.”

Soundwave didn’t hesitate. He backed to the door, slapped the controls, and darted out and away.

Starscream waited a few moments before rubbing his cheek, and chuckling. I hit a nerve~ he sing-songed to himself. He glanced back to be certain the computer wasn’t damaged when he tripped back against it, and then headed out. Somewhere, he knew Skywarp and Rumble were goading others into attending a party that night and had probably dragged Thundercracker with him. That meant that he would have their quarters to himself for a while to continue working on a way to detect the compound.

~ | ~

Starscream could hear the noise before he reached the rec room door. Above the too-loud music were crashes and bangs and yelling.

Joy. Another brawl. Starscream sighed. And they couldn’t understand why I’d rather work on this than come to the party?

Starscream palmed the door open, and immediately ducked as a mech came sailing his way. He glanced at Runabout where he crashed into the wall off to the right then looked left.

“Hiya, Star!” Skywarp called out cheerfully before sinking his fist into Runamuck’s abdomen. Others laughed, cheered, and jeered.

Starscream raised an optic ridge at the sight. About to return his attention to the datapad in his hand, he stopped when Thundercracker adjusted his grip, and Skywarp bent to grab Runamuck’s feet. They swung him back and forth a few times before Thundercracker called out, “Duck!” They let Runamuck go to follow his brother’s airborne path. Starscream crouched low, then stood after it was safe. He smiled as Runamuck crashed into Runabout and knocked the latter back over.

Most mechs went back to their tables and drinks, laughing, but a few lingered around Starscream’s wingmates. He walked toward them, mostly because they were on the path to the energon dispenser, and chuckled at the congratulations going around.

“They really were crude about it, but it was a good question,” Misfire said. Starscream noticed his wingmates stiffen and turn as one toward Misfire. “Come on, Commander! You weren’t really all that inexperienced were you?”

Oooh. Is that what set them off? Starscream waved a dismissive hand at his wingmates when they moved toward Misfire. Still tapping at his datapad, he pulled open the storage unit and took out an energon cube. He looked over at Misfire and simply said, “Yes.”

“But…” Misfire seemed truly perplexed. “Why?” There were a few nods and murmurs of agreement from those near enough, and sober enough, to be listening in.

Starscream shrugged in an ‘it’s not important’ way hoping he wasn’t conveying how uncomfortable the subject was making him. He felt nervous tingles shoot to his fingers, and fought the urge to look at Thundercracker and Skywarp.

Misfire wasn’t ready to let it go, however. “But… What about since the uh… attack? I mean why keep holding out, or whatever?”

Starscream just cocked his head sideways. From the outside he was pretty certain he looked mildly curious and a little annoyed, but on the inside his mind was screaming. He knew someone had to be wondering about his lifelong, and then continued as far as they knew, abstinence. He shook his head more in disbelief than denial, but that’s the way Misfire took it.

“But you’ve lived with Thundercracker and Skywarp for eons.”

Starscream had turned to continue his trek to the exit, but stopped and pinned Misfire with a glare. He was satisfied to see his underling flinch a little. “What are you implying?” he growled.

“N-n-nothing, sir. I just… uh…” Misfire looked around for help, and realized he wasn’t going to get any. “Sorry, sir,” he mumbled, and found the floor captivating.

Starscream nodded curtly once, and left the rec room.

Skywarp cast Thundercracker a bewildered, almost hurt look, and then followed Starscream out. Thundercracker sighed, looked skyward, then followed his obviously, though mysteriously upset, wingmate out and down the halls to their shared quarters.

~ | ~

Thundercracker stepped into their room to an argument already well under way. Skywarp was pacing and ranting, while Starscream was standing by the desk with his arms folded over his chest, looking petulant.

“I don’t see why you’re so upset,” Starscream said. “What business is it of theirs what we do behind closed doors?”

“You denied us, Starscream!”

“He had no right to ask me something so intimate.” Starscream forced himself to remain calm.

“But you could have said yes anyways! You could have-” Skywarp broke off in frustration. “Are you ashamed of this, Star? Of us? Huh?” Skywarp stopped his pacing and threw his arms out wide. “What is it? The little untouched gets raped and found out he likes merging after all?” Starscream’s mouth dropped open in shock, but Skywarp continued on, talking a little louder to stop any interruption. “Is that what you think they’ll think? Because after what you said before, it sure sounds like it’s a little of all of that! And that’s just stupid!”

“Sky,” Thundercracker said softly. Starscream seemed to be speechless for the moment.

Skywarp spun to look at him. “Well why else would he want to keep it a secret? I’m fragging sick of it!”

Starscream snapped out of his daze, and moved to capture the once again pacing Skywarp. “Sky.”

Skywarp spun and jerked out of reach, and Starscream leapt forward, catching him by his arm, using Skywarp’s momentum to swing him around into his arms. “Sky!” He raised his other hand to trace the silvery-white jawline. “Why in all the universe would I wish to share this, even the knowledge of this, with anyone but you and TC?” Skywarp’s optics softened a little, and Starscream continued. “This is still so very new. What’s wrong with me wanting to keep it to myself for a while longer?” Then he leaned in and kissed Skywarp in as possessive a manner as he could. Lips pressed, tongue swept, and Starscream bent Skywarp back just enough to put him off balance and leave him clinging.

Thundercracker smiled as he watched Starscream switch Skywarp’s gears. It was good to see someone else could do it, even if that someone was using a move Thundercracker had perfected ages ago. Starscream was certainly a fast learner.

Thundercracker moved over to stand behind Skywarp, slipping his arms beneath theirs. He slid his fingers beneath the edges of plating on both of them, and chuckled low at their simultaneous moans of appreciation.

Skywarp sighed, and let his helm fall back onto Thundercracker’s shoulder as Starscream moved his mouth down to his neck. Thundercracker tensed as Starscream wriggled his fingers beneath his plating, finding a sensitive spot.

Starscream raised his head and leaned over Skywarp’s shoulder to kiss Thundercracker. Skywarp was quickly coming to love this center position. The first few times they’d merged it had been Starscream in the middle. It had seemed right to wrap him between them and show him what a proper merging should be. Then only a few days ago, Starscream had snuck up behind Thundercracker, and they’d had quite a bit of fun driving their usually cool tempered lover completely wild. It was Thundercracker, while they enjoyed the mellow afterglow, that had chuckled and told Skywarp he really needed to try out the whole being in the middle thing. That it was different. And Primus! Was it ever!

Here he was again, and they’d barely even begun, and Skywarp was aroused enough to pop with just the thought of what was to come.

“He’s panting already,” Thundercracker murmured against Starscream’s lips.

“Mmhm,” was the distracted response.

“I think we blew out his circuits last time we had him between us.”

Starscream pulled back to look at Skywarp, and couldn’t stop the smile. He was probably only standing because both Starscream and Thundercracker were bracing him up. His mouth was parted, face slightly flushed as the bright pink of the energon in his circulation was pumped through his body faster. Skywarp’s optics were wide.

Just because he could, Starscream watched those optics flare then shut as he lightly dragged a finger along a circuit very near Skywarp’s spark casing.

Skywarp moaned, and his knees gave out, his wingmate following him to the floor. He was feeling impatient, and let his spark energy flare out. There was gasp from Thundercracker, and a low growl from Starscream as they joined the merge.

Starscream loved this. Absolutely loved it! He teased his fingers deeper into both of them, right hand finding that sweet spot just left of and just below Thundercracker’s spark that drove him wild. Left fingers strummed quickly across three or four tiny wires in Skywarp’s right side that left him gasping and muttering words that made Starscream blush. Could one actually manage to lick another’s circuitry that deeply within? Maybe he should try next time? Then it was his turn to gasp out a curse as Thundercracker sent a pulse rolling heavily through Skywarp and into him.

Skywarp was trembling so much, he thought he’d come apart at the seams. Every pulse shot through him twice as his wingmates volleyed the energy back and forth, faster, hotter. He twisted helplessly between them, and finally gave up trying to draw it out. He shuddered and howled his release. Sensation crashed through every burning circuit in a maddening rush.

“Not yet,” Starscream whispered.

Skywarp felt as first Starscream, and then Thundercracker pulled back slightly, the exchange slowing around him without either having released yet. Skywarp looked up blearily into Starscream’s face to see a very wicked grin aimed at him.

“I have an idea.”

Skywarp whimpered as four hands focused solely on him. Thundercracker placed one hand under his chin and turn his face up and back. He nibbled and nipped and swept his tongue into Skywarp’s mouth. Starscream latched on to the hollow of his throat and laved it while still running his fingers all along the oversensitive circuitry. The exchange charged up again, and Skywarp moaned and cried out, arching in their arms.

Thundercracker fell first, waves of energy pulsing through Skywarp and sending Starscream over the edge too. Between them, Skywarp could only scream as a second release claimed him.

Skywarp woke to find himself lying between Starscream and Thundercracker on their joined berths.

“See? That was blowing his circuits,” Starscream said.

Light chuckles Sounded from either side of him, and Skywarp tried to get his optics to focus. “I’d say.”

Thundercracker leaned over and kissed him lightly. “You ok?”

“Sure, Honey, just fine,” he said, and Starscream laughed.

“You know that thing we discussed, Sky?” Thundercracker asked suddenly serious.

“What thing?”

“Yeah, what thing, TC?” Skywarp turned his head to look at him.

Thundercracker glanced nervously back and forth between the other two a few times. Starscream and Skywarp shared a look, then turned back expectantly to Thundercracker.

Thundercracker sighed, then sucked up his courage, and simply asked, “Will you both bond with me?”

“Oh that!”

“What? No!”

Skywarp looked at Starscream. “No? Why not?”

Starscream all but launched off the berth, and began pacing. “This is all too new.” He looked at Thundercracker, walking back to him, and caressing the back of his neck. “Not no forever, but Primus! We’ve only been together a few weeks.”

“We discussed this years ago, Star,” Skywarp told him.

Starscream gave him an incredulous stare. “I wasn’t involved years ago. I only just became involved.” He spun around, and missed the guilty wince from Skywarp, but then turned back to the berth. “I love the both of you, but please. I’m not ready yet.”

~ | ~

“Come on, ‘Slinger. Please!”

Slugslinger watched as his lover and wingmate practically begged him. “I’m not sure it’s such a good idea. We could just get drunk.”

Triggerhappy sighed, and tried again. This time though he cupped the back of the Slugslinger’s neck, and rubbed light circles in a way he knew was enjoyed. “We’ll never have a better chance,” he murmured, and leaned in for a soft kiss. “Misfire’s passed out in the rec room, and everyone else is either knocked out or too drunk to bother bringing him back here.” Another light graze of lips and a fraction more pressure along a neck cable.

Slugslinger failed to suppress a gasp as little tingles of pleasure cascaded to his spark. “Imagine,” whispered his lover. “No inhibitions. No pulling back because we’re being ‘too loud’. Just completely and utterly immersed in the experience.”

He made it sound so good! Didn’t Slugslinger always wish for Triggerhappy to just let go? If this drug could finally help his overly self-conscious lover in doing just that, then it was worth the risk of getting in trouble. Wasn’t it? Slugslinger nodded wordlessly, and took command of the kiss for a few moments.

Triggerhappy stepped back, and turned to the waiting energon. He handed one to Slugslinger and raised his cube in a brief toast.

“Wait!” Slugslinger put a hand on Triggerhappy’s arm to stop him. “How fast will it work? Do we just down it? Do-”

Triggerhappy chuckled a bit. “Yeah, just down it, and we’ll see what happens.” So saying he tossed his energon back, and then looked expectantly at Slugslinger. The latter smiled, shrugged, and finished the drink off fast.

They stared in silence at each other for a few moments.

Red optics blinked in the dim light.

“You feel anything?”

“No. You?”


A sigh sounded in the dimly lit room.

“We could start without it?” suggested Slugslinger with a leer.

“We could.” Triggerhappy grinned, and reached again to grasp Slugslinger’s neck, bringing their mouths together again.

They went slow, waiting for the effect of the drug to kick in. Finally Triggerhappy pulled back. “Maybe I grabbed the wrong beaker?”

Slugslinger shook his head. “Nah. The fool wrote what was in there right on the bottles.” They stayed quiet for a few minutes in each other’s arms. “Well, let’s think about it logically.” He took a step back and began to pace contemplatively. “They probably would have spiked Dirge’s cube in the rec room, right?” A nod answered him. “And they wouldn’t want it to take effect too quickly.”

“Ok, that makes sense. So…”

“We just wait,” finished Slugslinger with a one shouldered shrug.

A few moments passed in silence as the duo sat on Triggerhappy’s berth.

“Well this sucks.”

Slugslinger laughed, and pulled his disgruntled wingmate to him, determined to make the most of the night. If all they had to go on was a slight buzz from the high grade Triggerhappy had mixed the drug into, then so be it.

“Maybe we didn’t use enough?” Triggerhappy said suddenly. He hopped to his feet to get more, but before Slugslinger could reach out, Triggerhappy fell drunkenly back into his lap.

“Oooo. Look what I caught!” Slugslinger easily dumped his wingmate off his lap and onto the berth.

“I think it’s starting to work,” whispered Triggerhappy as he put a hand to his head. “I feel dizzy.”

Slugslinger crawled up his wingmate’s body, and admitted to himself that yes, he was feeling something now.

He’d barely lined his body up on top of Triggerhappy’s to kiss him when a shudder passed through the mech below him. It echoed through Slugslinger, and then very suddenly both their spark energies rushed out and collided.

The room was filled with their howls, and nearly as soon as it was over, both trembling and dazed and unable to think, it began again. And again. And again.

Slugslinger fell limply sideways off of Triggerhappy, both gasping and trying to stop the raging energy. This was such a bad idea, Slugslinger thought, panicked. The unbound spark energies flared out again and merged violently without the control from the mechs those sparks belonged to. Slugslinger screamed again, and fell away to the blackness.

Such a bad idea, thought Triggerhappy before he too, lost consciousness.

~ | ~

Starscream awoke the next morning and smiled happily. Both Thundercracker and Skywarp were still deep in recharge, and Starscream took a moment to just observe them. Thundercracker had his right wing tucked in and was curled on his side. His cheek was pillowed on Skywarp’s left wing, hand holding a purple one and the other curled loosely in front of his face. Thundercracker looked surprisingly young and vulnerable. In contrast, Skywarp lay flopped on his back. His left hand lay limply in Thundercracker’s grasp, and his right arm was draped lazily above his head.

Starscream’s smile dissolved as their last words of the night before returned.

Bonding, Starscream mused. Not entirely a horrible idea, and he admitted to himself that he could have reacted better. It was just such a shock. Way too soon!

There was a light tap at the door, and Starscream watched as Thundercracker stirred slightly before settling back in.

Starscream wasn’t surprised to see Soundwave waiting. He slipped out of his quarters, being sure to block as much of the view as possible as the door closed.

Soundwave turned away without a word, and Starscream followed him to Bane and Blight’s old quarters.

Starscream was content with the silence. He walked around the room, lightly dragging his fingers along the walls. He also knew the telepath was watching him and didn’t bother to hide the smirk. Probably wondering when I’m going to shoot him for yesterday.

Soundwave stood near a work station. It held beakers and bottles and vials. Some were empty, some filled with various colored fluids. They were all meticulously labeled, and the work surface was spotless and organized to the point of being obsessive.

Soundwave berated himself yet again. The same recriminations that had run through his mind since coming face to face with Starscream during the confrontation with Bane rose up in his mind again. He should have known. He really should have known what Bane and Blight were up to. That was part of his job. Yes, he hated the slagging flyer, but no one deserved what Starscream had gone through. For a few moments in that hallway the Air Commander’s mind had been defenseless in his terror. Soundwave had very nearly drowned in Starscream’s memories. It was only Megatron’s quiet words, reminding him of who he was, that allowed Soundwave to regain control.

Of course, then Starscream had cold cocked his lord, and Megatron’s defenses has slipped. That memory and Starscream’s taunting from yesterday were the reason Soundwave was so off balance now. The telepath never tried to read Megatron’s mind, but every once in a while he’d catch an errant thought, a bit of hidden emotion, a repressed desire.

Soundwave sneered at Starscream from behind the protective face mask. Oh the seeker was right about him being jealous and bitter, but not for the reasons he believed. For just what would the ambitious seeker do if he knew Megatron’s deepest, darkest, most closely guarded secret was just how much he desired and cared for Starscream? And Soundwave hated him for it. He should hold that place in Megatron’s spark, not some undeserving, uncaring fool like Starscream. Starscream would never even return the affection!

How shocked and… regretful Megatron had been to learn Starscream was untouched. How the great leader had yearned at that moment to show his Second a proper merging. Soundwave knew that Megatron was nothing if not calculating and pragmatic, so when he had released the seeker, and Thundercracker and Skywarp stepped in, Soundwave hadn’t hesitated to inform Megatron of their love for one another. Megatron wouldn’t interfere. He needed his Second in Command in command, and if the other two could support him through this, then he’d leave them to it.

Starscream had arrived at the table now, and was lifting and inspecting the concoctions one at a time. “You’ve already checked these,” he stated, placing a bluish, viscous-looking liquid down.

Soundwave was a bit surprised by the other suddenly breaking the silence. “Affirmative,” he answered, though it hadn’t been a question.

Starscream heaved a sigh. “This is pointless. It isn’t here.” Then he just left.

Soundwave watched as the seeker walked out. He had no inkling at all what Starscream was thinking, and just hoped he could find the sample first.

~ | ~

Starscream walked away as nonchalantly as he could. He sincerely hoped Megatron’s snoopy little pet didn’t know just how shaken up he was.

At first he had been fine. Starscream had wandered the perimeter of the room, scanning the walls for hidden recesses. Then he’d come to the table. Sudden panic had gripped his spark as he picked bottles up randomly. The realization that his rapists had stood there and created the drug used to violate him swept through like a tornado.

Starscream brushed the tears away angrily. He’d been fine! For weeks! Why was he crying now? At least the hall was blessedly empty. He didn’t want anyone to see him like this. Starscream stopped, and squeezed his optics shut, hands fisted by his sides. They are dead. They can’t hurt you! he told himself sternly. He stood for a moment repeating that in his mind. Finally feeling a little more under control, at least he didn’t think he’d run off to his wingmates sobbing, Starscream continued to his quarters.

~ | ~

Skywarp fought against the inexorable pull of the waking world, though it was no use. Something was stroking repetitively from between his optics to the tip of his nose.

“Morning, Sleeping Beauty,” rumbled Thundercracker’s deep voice. He continued to run his finger along Skywarp’s nose.

“Mm.” Skywarp left his optics shut, and felt around to his right. He turned his head to look, and asked, “Where’s Star?”

“Left earlier. I think Soundwave came for him.”

“Oh.” Skywarp stretched a little then slid his wing down and rolled to face Thundercracker. He pulled his smiling wingmate in and kissed him soundly before switching to quick punctuating kisses. “Good morning then.” He grinned. “I’ll catch Star up later.”

Thundercracker smiled as Skywarp groaned and rolled to his back, allowing his left wing to come back up. “How in all the white-hot, smelting glory of the Pit do you sleep all night like that?” he asked, referring to Thundercracker’s penchant for being a side sleeper. A quiet snicker was his only answer.

Skywarp looked up at Thundercracker where he lay braced on his elbows and then watched as the smile slowly faded from Thundercracker’s face. “We need to talk about last night.”

Skywarp grinned widely, intentionally misunderstanding. “Well, if you really need to be reassured.” He grabbed Thundercracker’s helm and leaned up to plant a scorching kiss on him before falling back. “It was amazing!”

Thundercracker watched in amusement as Skywarp stretched and writhed as though feeling again the pleasure of the merging. “That’s not what I meant, and you know it.” He lay down again to stare at the ceiling.

Skywarp went limp, and returned his gaze to Thundercracker. He wore a somber expression. “I know.” He sat up, and leaned over his wingmate. Then bent further and kissed him softly, massaging the pliable, willing mouth with his own. Skywarp pulled back. “I also know that you came on way too strong with him.” Thundercracker began to shake his head, but Skywarp continued. “Honestly, TC! What were you thinking bringing up bonding so soon?”

Thundercracker stared steadily Skywarp for a moment, trying to decide if he was serious or baiting him. Judging by the expectant expression, Skywarp really was waiting for a serious reply. Thundercracker sighed, and answered as honestly as he could. “Because I want to be bonded. The only reason we’ve held off so long is because neither one of us wanted to give up on Starscream. That patience has paid off. Finally! I can’t help feeling like I need to grab you both and hang on as tight as I can.” Skywarp smiled softly and kissed him again. “And you,” Thundercracker continued accusingly, “actually argued with him about going public!”

Skywarp loudly groaned again, and missed the quiet hiss of their door opening and closing. Thundercracker smirked, and settled in to watch Skywarp dig his own grave.

“I’ll tell you what we’re going to do,” Skywarp said. “First, we work on Star about this secret nonsense. Little stuff so everyone figures it out anyways, and once we get it through that tangle of wires he calls his processor that no one’s judging him or whatever, then we’ll work on him about bonding.”

The sound of null ray cannons charging up filled the room, and Thundercracker’s smirk turned in to a wicked, but soft chuckle.

Skywarp whipped his head around. “Uh… Hiya, Sweetling!” he called cheerfully. However, it didn’t garner the hoped for result.

Thundercracker was the first to realize that something deeper was wrong with Starscream, and shoved Skywarp aside. He quickly went to his wingmate.

Starscream flinched away, but Thundercracker wrapped him up in his arms anyway. The cannons whined as they shut down. “What’s wrong, love? Why are you shaking?” he asked.

Skywarp, miffed though he was at Thundercracker’s careless shove, immediately went to them and laid a hand on the back of Starscream’s head. He’d buried his face in Thundercracker’s neck and hadn’t said a word yet.

“It just… bothered me to be in their quarters and know they’d made that drug there.” Starscream’s voice was muffled when he finally spoke. When he looked up his optics were dry and he’d stopped trembling. Both Thundercracker and Skywarp were glad to see that.

Ever the voice of reason, Thundercracker said, “Of course it bothered you. You can’t expect to be over everything in only a few weeks.” He held Starscream’s face captive in his hands, and searched his optics. “Are you ok now?”

Starscream nodded, and took a breath before pinning a glare to Skywarp. He pulled away from the both of them. “I don’t want everyone knowing because I want to keep it private. Do you really think I care what others think? And no, I’m not ashamed of you because I don’t care what the rest of the base thinks. So forget your stupid plots.” He knew he was being harsh, but he was angry that they just couldn’t seem to get it. He turned to Thundercracker. “And I’m not even going to consider bonding yet because I. Am. Not. Ready.”

Skywarp wore a sulky pout, but Thundercracker looked genuinely hurt. Starscream sighed, and walked over to the desk, needing just a little space. Turning back he said. “Look. Not no forever, all right? But this is new to me. You have no idea how new.”

“Then why don’t you tell us?” Skywarp snarled, feeling the age-old guilt eat at him more than any anger.

Starscream shook his head, and instead asked them, “Can’t you both just give me little time? Please?” He looked back and forth between them, optics pleading. Thundercracker softened immediately, and though Skywarp relented a bit in his glower, he didn’t completely relax. Starscream walked to him and caught his upper arm gently. “Please, Sky? Cupcake? Sparkling, Honey, Dearling?”

Skywarp’s lips quirked as he tried to fight the grin. He lost the battle when Thundercracker cried in an affronted voice. “Hey! I’m Honey!”

Whatever would have come next was interrupted by a loud pounding on the door and the muffled, but still audibly panicked, cry from beyond. “Starscream! Starscream come quick!”

Thundercracker charged a blaster, then opened the door. Thrust stepped forward. He was crying openly, and grabbed Thundercracker’s wrist while looking frantically around the room before spotting Starscream. He never even seemed to notice Thundercracker’s other hand holding a readied weapon. He moved forward to get to his commander, but Thundercracker stopped him, and Skywarp stepped protectively in front of a suddenly terrified Starscream.

Nononononononono, was the only thought Starscream could manage to process.

“Commander, come quick!” Thrust begged, and then said the words that would have dropped Starscream to the floor if he hadn’t backed himself onto his desk already. “It’s happened again!”

~ | ~

They pounded through the corridors, moving fast toward the infirmary.

Thrust had gained some measure of calm, and even though he spoke fast and sounded upset, he was no longer crying. “Ramjet and I woke up in the rec room and saw Misfire. We got him up and figured we’d just drop him at his quarters on the way to our new ones.” He swung them around a corner, pace never slowing as they approached the lift. “He opened the door and-”

A fresh sob escaped as the lift doors closed. Skywarp put a hand on his shoulder, and Thrust continued. “It was just like when we found Dirge,” he whispered. “Energy all over the place!” The lift doors opened, and the quartet moved again through the halls to the medbay. “We backed Misfire out, and Ramjet told me to find you and Soundwave. He said that he’d take them to the medbay, and told me to run.”

They opened the doors, and Thrust rushed to finish. “I ran into Soundwave and told him to go to Ramjet. He rushed off before I was done, and then I ran to you, Starscream.” He turned away, broke into a run, and was caught up by Ramjet as Starscream’s trine entered the medbay.

Hook looked up at Starscream from where he, Scrapper, and Soundwave were bent over inspecting Misfire’s wingmates. “They were both drugged. Right now for their protection and ours, we have them locked in a stasis field. Slugslinger seems more stable. We’re going to wake him in a moment and see if he knows who attacked them. They’re lucky to be alive at all with all the energy that was lost. They were left and seem to have merged together repeatedly against their will.”

A whimper escaped from Thrust, and Starscream moved over to him and Ramjet. Thrust was too sensitive, too raw, the loss of Dirge still affecting him heavily. “Take him out of here. There’s no reason for either of you to stay. Go to your quarters and lock it tight. I’ll come for you personally later.” He spoke very softly, and in an uncommon show of affection, ran a hand lightly down Thrust’s back. “Go.” He turned toward Misfire. The young seeker had tears flowing down his face and his arms wrapped tight in a self hug. He wasn’t making a sound, and just stood staring at his wingmates.

Starscream cast a quick glance at his own wingmates just to assure himself they were there, then crossed to Misfire. He was the Air Commander. No one else could do his duty, and that duty was to protect and support his troops. Rage swept through him in sudden realization. Someone was targeting his seekers! First Dirge and now Slugslinger and Triggerhappy.

Misfire made no move to respond to Starscream’s presence. His gaze was locked on his incapacitated trine mates. “Misfire,” he said softly. Slowly, Misfire turned his gaze to his commander. That small action seemed to strip away all of the his self control, and Misfire sobbed, hurling himself into Starscream’s arms.

Soundwave watched, gaze hidden behind his visor. He expected the Air Commander to shove the smaller seeker away. Rebuke him. Something other than warmly wrapping his arms around Misfire, and let him cry and mutter and wail about the injustice of it all.

“Sir?” Ramjet said. Starscream looked up, surprised the other two hadn’t fled the first chance they got. “Maybe I should take Misfire too?”

Starscream looked back to where Thrust huddled by the door, nodding his agreement. He returned his gaze to Ramjet, then handed Misfire off gently. “Use the emergency frequency if anyone tries to get into your quarters. Blare it through the whole damn ship, I don’t care. But if you’re left alone, just stay quiet. I think whoever it is may be after us specifically.”

Ramjet’s optics widened, but almost right away he began nodding. He wasn’t squad leader for nothing, and made the connection that only seekers had been raped thus far. He gathered Misfire closer, and while murmuring quietly, collected his wingmate on the way out.

“We’re ready to wake him,” Scrapper said. Starscream turned away from the doors and joined his wingmates beside the repair berth Slugslinger lay on.

Slugslinger opened his optics and gazed blearily around. He groaned, and then spoke, surprising everyone with his words. “So how much trouble are we in?”

Soundwave gasped, and took a step back, then flinched as Slugslinger managed to slam his mental barriers up. “Out of my head, spy!” growled Slugslinger menacingly. If one could growl menacingly while so weak.

Starscream smiled grimly. He had personally seen to it that all his seekers were trained in how to defend their minds from Soundwave. Of course some were better than others, but he was momentarily proud. “You are in no trouble at all. Just tell us what happened.”

“There was no rape,” Soundwave said, and Starscream thought he caught something like surprise ringing in that annoying monotone. All optics snapped to his face, then back to Slugslinger’s.

“You thought we… that we… were raped?” Slugslinger gasped out.

Starscream could well remember the pain, and fought to keep his face neutral. “You weren’t?”

Slugslinger shook his head no. “We heard through a few that were there in the hall where Dirge died that the drug lowered inhibitions.” He sucked a breath in and winced. “Damn. No one said it’d hurt!”

“Fool!” Starscream raged. “You complete idiot! You did this on purpose?! To yourselves?!” At the answering nod, Starscream spun away cursing in a dark string of words. He heard Hook assure Slugslinger that they’d try to repair him and his wingmate, then put him back under into full stasis.

“Remaining drug location: Their quarters.”

No one said anything for a few moments, but Skywarp and Thundercracker moved in close to Starscream. He pulled away when Skywarp made to hug him. “One of you go with Soundwave, and find that slag,” he ordered.

“What will you do?” Thundercracker asked.

Starscream sighed. “I may be able to remember some of the techniques that healed me. I’ll stay and see what use I can be here. Not that they deserve it. I’ll be creative regarding a punishment for them later.” With that, he turned away and went back to the table.

Skywarp looked aggravated. “I’ll go, you stay with him. He was really upset earlier.” He conveniently ignored the fact that he was mostly the cause of that upset, and left with Soundwave, being certain his mental shields were at full power.

Starscream and the Constructicons did what they could, but it wasn’t enough. Starscream just couldn’t remember all that Ratchet had done to repair him, and Slugslinger and Triggerhappy’s spark energies remained uncontained.

Thundercracker hovered nearby the entire time. When Starscream turned around for the fifth time only to crash into his wingmate yet again, he sent him packing. Thundercracker said he’d just go ahead and try to help Skywarp and Soundwave in their efforts.

Shaking his head, Starscream went back to work. It didn’t last long before he gave it up for a lost cause, however. Maybe if he checked the data he did have regarding the drug and possible detection, it would make something else click into place that would actually be helpful. He left Hook and Scrapper to their work, and returned to his quarters. On the way, he quickly stopped by to let the other seekers know that though Slugslinger and Triggerhappy were not yet repaired, but that they hadn’t been raped. Both his wingmates were still out, so Starscream settled in at the desk and began re-reading the information he’d compiled.

~ | ~

Thundercracker returned to his quarters to find Starscream sitting at the desk working on a data pad. He stepped up beside his wingmate and lightly ran the backs of his fingers along Starscream’s cheek. Thundercracker felt Starscream smile, then leaned back in his chair and closed his optics.

Starscream felt strung out, and Thundercracker’s touch was the relaxing break he needed. He let the datapad clattered to the desk as Thundercracker swung his leg over Starscream’s lap, sat on his thighs, and continued to brush his fingers over the soft silicon of his face.

Thundercracker relaxed, and ran one finger across Starscream’s lower lip. A small sigh escaped as a light kiss was pressed to his finger. Thundercracker leaned over and brushed his mouth against Starscream’s, a deep moan rolling free as a wave of lust crashed through him. Unthinkingly, he sent a rolling pulse of spark energy out, and moaned again when Starscream responded in kind.

Starscream pulled back and opened his optics. An optic ridge raised in amusement. “What’s foreplay?” he asked laughingly, and then sent a sharp double pulse of energy straight through Thundercracker.

Thundercracker’s legs drew up and around Starscream’s waist and the back of the chair, ankles crossing as he squeezed his arms tighter around Starscream’s shoulders. “Where did you learn that?” he gasped out. Starscream cried out, fingers digging into Thundercracker’s hips, beyond answering. Thundercracker too, was awash in sensation. The energy slammed back and forth, hot, demanding, fast and hard. It slid heavily along circuits, skittered enticingly along wires. It was everywhere all at once.

Starscream couldn’t begin to catch his breath. His entire body shook uncontrollably, and he was aware of nothing but the solid weight of Thundercracker wrapped around him, and the blazing pleasure whirling through them.

Thundercracker was lost. He moaned and cried out, arched his head and shoulders away, and then gasping as he nearly violently curled back into Starscream, burying his face in his neck. It was noisy and intense and powerful. Starscream had never felt more powerful than he did at that moment, knowing he could bring his lover to such a state.

It seemed to stretch out, time slowed, and Starscream watched Thundercracker throw his head back again, gloriously beautiful as he abandoned himself to the pleasure. Then there was no more thought. Starscream convulsively gripped his lover’s waist tighter, and clamped his teeth together in a final effort not to let the entire base know just how slagging good the release felt. He growled and gasped as the most delicious tremors shot from the tips of his wings to the tips of his feet and back again and again and again.

Thundercracker was incapable of movement. He lay limply in Starscream’s arms with his forehead on his shoulder, smiling softly, and enjoying the aftershocks still flowing through his own body.

It was then that they heard the door swoosh open and Skywarp entered. “Hey, Cupcake! You just missed the best merging!” Thundercracker couldn’t seem to calm the goofy grin he could feel pulling at the corners of his mouth.

Starscream chuckled, and because he knew it’d get a laugh directed at his so-called ‘insatiable’ nature said, “We’ll just have to do that again and show him.”

It wasn’t until Starscream and Thundercracker looked up that they realized that Skywarp wasn’t as amused as they were.

“You… you merged without me?”

Starscream grinned, still too dazed to fully comprehend the emotion behind that question. “He ravished me, Sky!” He let his head drop back, and laughed. “He seduced me with power.” Here he looked straight at Skywarp. “You know how I love power.” He giggled a little more, and felt Thundercracker shake in his arms with his own silent laughter.

Skywarp was anything but entertained, and he suddenly hated that childlike tone Starscream used when he thought he was being cute or was playing innocent. “You merged without me?!” he demanded this time, and stomped over to jerk Thundercracker off Starscream’s lap. Thundercracker stumbled slightly before managing to find the edge of the desk and lean there.

It wasn’t so much the accusatory tone he used that set Starscream off so quickly, but the fact that he just ripped Thundercracker out of his arms. He wasn’t even the least bit careful about it either. It was unreasonable, and Starscream wasn’t able to stop his next words. “I’m sorry and how many thousands of years were the two of you ‘facing behind my back?”

Starscream instantly wanted to take the angry words back. He didn’t even really feel that way. It hadn’t been a conscious decision to leave Skywarp out, so he didn’t understand at all why he was so angry about it. He noticed how Thundercracker had stiffened at the words too, but worse, oh so much worse, were the tears that sprung so fast to Skywarp’s optics and spilled over. He had never made either of them cry before.

Starscream stood and reached towards Skywarp, but he flinched away, and practically flew out of the room.

“I didn’t mean it,” Starscream said in a small voice as he sank to the floor at Thundercracker’s feet. “I swear I didn’t.”

“Give him a little bit. He’ll calm down, come back, and then we can all work it out.” There was a pause as Thundercracker slid to join Starscream on the floor and wrapped him in a warm embrace. “I didn’t think. I’m sorry. With three of us now it just adds a whole new dynamic to the whole… thing.” He heaved a sigh, spark weighed down. “I didn’t even think about how he might feel to be left out. No matter how unintentional.”

“But what does it matter?” Starscream asked, leaning back a little to look Thundercracker in the face. “If it had been him instead of you, I’d have reacted the same. If it had been him instead of me, you would have acted the same.” He paused again, Thundercracker’s hug the only thing keeping him from pulling away to pace. “I can’t believe I said that! I don’t, really don’t feel that way. Even now were I to walk in and see what Sky did, I would have tried to jump in and start it all up again.”

Starscream paused and considered for a moment, lying his head back against Thundercracker’s shoulder. He really tried to picture the same situation while putting himself in Skywarp’s place. A ghost of a tremor ran through him. Primus! Seeing them wrapped together like that would be erotic! He wouldn’t be angry because he’d just tease them and touch them until they couldn’t resist merging with him. He just couldn’t understand why Skywarp would be so upset.

Thundercracker shrugged slightly. “We’ll work it out when he comes back. If he needs it to be all three of us or not at all, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Starscream nodded against his shoulder.

“We should go find him,” Starscream said, and pulled away to stand. He reached down automatically to help Thundercracker to his feet. He was unable to resist the urge to pull him in against him in a quick embrace. He sighed, and rested his forehead against Thundercracker’s, momentarily unable to say the sappy words running through his mind.

“Love you too,” Thundercracker whispered, and grinned.

A smile quirked the corner of Starscream’s mouth up. “Come on. Let’s go find him before he gets himself into trouble.

~ | ~

Skywarp fled blindly through the corridors. He had no conscious idea where he was heading, he just ran, and since everyone was required to remain at base, he was bumping and bouncing off Decepticons left, right, and center. Skywarp’s right wing caught on someone else and sent him stumbling to his hands and knees. He was up again, a broken sob escaping. Someone reached out to grab him, maybe even steady him but he launched himself away and took off down the hall again, murmurs rising in his wake.

He just couldn’t move fast enough! Skywarp teleported without a destination in mind. He pushed himself to the furthest distance he could in his desire to just get away. It wasn’t until he re-materialized that he realized his mistake. The Decepticon base wasn’t two and half miles long, but it was at least that far beneath the cold, black Pacific Ocean. Icy water rushed in as he gasped in surprise. Skywarp instantly made another jump this time straight up, and then another as far as he could go.

He engaged his thrusters in an effort to stay aloft, and coughed out the salt water before it could do any harm to delicate inner circuitry. Skywarp glanced around. The ocean was a black and boiling mass beneath him, and a violent storm crashed around him. Wind buffeted him from all directions. One moment pushing him down, then back, and then up and forward. He shivered in fear, and the freezing rain washed away the tears before they could even fully form.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, idiot, stupid moron, stupidstupidstupid!

Skywarp drifted with the wind while looking down at the water. He wrapped his arms tight around his chest as the full realization of what he’d nearly done to himself crashed over with damning certainty. No matter how unintentional it’d been, he’d damn near just killed himself. Skywarp shook, and tightened his self hug. He flew a little farther away from the base he knew was below those roiling waves somewhere, and then stopped to look back.

But I don’t want to die, he thought, turning again to fly still farther away. It hadn’t been on purpose. He was upset that was all, and wasn’t thinking. He’d certainly scared himself more than anyone, or anything, had ever managed to before.

And why was he so upset?

The guilt came back tenfold, and Skywarp felt like there was a vice cranking tighter and tighter around his spark. Guilt for how he’d jerked Thundercracker away from Starscream even though they were both still dazed and giddy from the merging. Guilt for running out on them. And worst of it all, Starscream had thrown the one thing Skywarp truly regretted in his life right in his face. That guilt had the power to drown him just as much as the ocean below him could.

Skywarp’s fists came up to his helm as he squeezed his optics shut. Coward! was the self recrimination. He should have stayed. He deserved those words and more. What was he actually so upset about to find them together? Was he jealous? That didn’t seem quite right. Skywarp shook his head, and teleported further away. A powerful blast of wind knocked him forward, making him have to fight to right himself in the air.

He should go back, but to do so would require contacting the base and making others aware that he’d left it. He would be in so much trouble when Megatron found out. There was no way he could teleport back in. It would take two jumps through the water, and the very idea of feeling the weight of an entire ocean pressing him down, trying to swallow him, was too terrifying to contemplate. Once through foolish idiocy was enough! He couldn’t do it on purpose.

Unfortunately, if he commed for assistance, Megatron would be very, very angry when he returned. Based on that last argument between Starscream and Megatron, he would probably also try to pin responsibility on Starscream for Skywarp leaving. Which it sorta kinda was, but he hated it when the two fought. It scared him how Starscream would push Megatron, taking some perverse delight that even Thundercracker couldn’t understand.

Skywarp pressed his hands to the sides of his helm, trying to keep it from breaking right in two. He was no great thinker, even when in top form and that was so not right now. That had always been Starscream, and to a good degree Thundercracker too. Never him. Never impulsive, free-wheeling Skywarp. He wasn’t very good at introspective thought either. Never had he been one to delve deep and really figure out his emotions. He simply was. If he was happy he was happy. If he was angry he was angry, but right now he was too many emotions to count!

Deciding that it was easier to run for now, he did just that. Skywarp teleported twice in quick succession, and was just about to jump again when the world exploded. Pain arced through his body and sent systems crashing offline like those little domino toys humans had. With sudden knowledge, he realized he’d been struck by lightning. Something internal sparked crazily, and Skywarp involuntarily transformed halfway before snapping back to mech form. He couldn’t see, but he could feel he was falling, and he knew that there was nothing below him but an angry, hungry sea.

Apparently Skywarp’s equilibrium was blown out too, because he hadn’t realized he was falling sideways until he felt his left wing bowed back as he struck the frothing surface of the water. Terrified instinct caused him to reach up and out. He knew he couldn’t swim. He wasn’t built for it and the solid metal weight of his body was in no way buoyant enough for him to stay on the surface. No matter how perfectly he mimicked the human techniques, he still sank.

The pain in his body, particularly his wing, was dulling and he knew that beyond the systems he’d already lost, this numbness was a precursor to losing motor function as well.

In panic, he thrashed and reached out with all his might trying to claw his way back to the surface. Skywarp had already tried to make another jump and had felt more than heard the pop of something internal breaking cleanly. Pain flashed through him and cleared his mind for a just second, but that second was a life saver.

Skywarp felt rock crumble beneath his reaching fingers and scrambled and twisted. It was so hard to keep from inhaling the salt water. He wouldn’t drown in quite the same way as a human, but the high salt content would ruin his internal workings in mere minutes.

Skywarp nearly cried in relief when both hands met with the reef. He climbed hand over hand as fast as he could, praying the whole way that he could reach the surface. With a gasp he inhaled the free air, then dragged himself to the top of the thin atoll, and scooted to a sitting position. He was still technically in the water but now he really did cry in relief. He’d escaped the depths and certain death.

Skywarp wasn’t sure how long he sat there, huddled and sobbing, as the storm raged on, but he finally calmed enough to begin taking stock of his wounds. He could feel his own healing programs trying to correct the injuries. He tried to direct them and discovered that though online, he had no control. Skywarp tested communications. Now would be a good time to call in a rescue and just face the music. Communications were down though.


Still unable to see, Skywarp just felt along himself to find the external injuries. He reached back to try and locate his bent wing. Primus, that felt horrid. It was curled back as though someone had tried to roll it up and given up half way, and damn did it ever hurt!

Skywarp found the reason for the internal healing tingling in his right leg then too. The plating was ripped, and he could feel the slow leak of energon. The tingles at the wing were pointless and he really wished he could redirect them to his leg. The wing hurt like the Smelters, but so did his leg, and his leg was bleeding.

Then Skywarp noticed something else. That internal repair program was also creating a faint tickle in both optics as well. Hesitantly he reached up to touch his face.

Frag me.

His vision wasn’t just offline. Skywarp’s optics had completely blown out. The fragile glass lenses had shattered and fallen away, and he could feel energon seeping from a few burst circulation lines.

The numbness was returning. Skywarp shifted to sit cross legged, and leaned forward. His only hope was that he’d staying sitting when he passed out and that his wingmates would realize he wasn’t in the base anymore and come looking.

A shudder ran through his frame, and Skywarp lost consciousness.

~ | ~

Starscream checked his chrono again. They’d been searching for Skywarp for more than three hours, and by now the sky above would be at its blackest. At first he and Thundercracker had gone together, thinking that Skywarp would be easy to find. They’d checked the rec room, then Thundercracker led him to a bank of alcoves that Skywarp sometimes went to when he wanted to be alone. Neither place panned out. In fact, nowhere panned out.

Communications failed. There were three possible reasons for that, and Starscream didn’t like any of them. Guilt swamped him heavily. Either Skywarp was so angry and hurt by his wingmates -by me- that he had shut off his communications, he was too far away to be reached, or he was damaged and couldn’t communicate. Each one held a measure of dread for Starscream, and he shuddered to think of Skywarp curled up in a corner somewhere injured and hurting because Starscream couldn’t control his temper and mouth.

When all the usual places had failed, they decided to split up and search methodically, level by level.

His comm beeped, and Starscream paused to listened to Thundercracker.

//Any luck yet?//

//No. How about you?//

A sigh sounded through the link, and Starscream realized it really was a dumb question. Why would Thundercracker ask him if he’d had any luck himself? //Sorry. I’m worried.//

//I know,// Thundercracker replied. //Meet me at our quarters. I grabbed us some energon.//

//We need to find him,// Starscream insisted.

//I know, Star, but we need to refuel at some point too. Besides, we’ve been out looking so long. What if Warp just decided to go back and recharge?//

Starscream straightened in surprise, then spun to head back to their room. Of course! he thought. They hadn’t looked in their own quarters yet. Already running, Starscream said to Thundercracker, //Meet you there!// then cut the transmission.

~ | ~

Thundercracker wasn’t pleased about lying, but he knew that it would make Starscream run back, and was glad when he beat his wingmate to their quarters. The room was empty and dark, as he had expected after his last conversation. He needed Starscream in the room though. Inside, he could stop him from doing something stupid.

Thundercracker turned on the lights, hearing the sound of someone running down the hall. Starscream entered, and Thundercracker watched as his optics darted around the room, searching.

“He’s not in here,” Starscream said, disappointment ringing in his voice.

“I noticed.” Thundercracker paused, and handed Starscream a cube of energon. He waited while Starscream sipped at it distractedly. “I spoke to a few others that saw Sky running.”

“Then where is he? What did the say?”

“They said he was crying, which we already knew.” The guilt obvious in his voice. “They were curious, but I managed to get a few answers without giving any details.” Thundercracker paused, and Starscream continued to stare, waiting. “Barricade says that he saw Skywarp take down Brawl with his wing, fall too, and hop back up and tear away. He said...”

Starscream gestured impatiently for Thundercracker to continue. “He said what, TC? Where is Sky?”

“He said he saw Sky teleport.”

Starscream did not see why that was so distressing. “He teleports all the time. Why would that be interesting, and why would it have you all flustered?” He looked hard at Thundercracker’s face. There was real fear there. Then it hit him. Hard. “No,” he whispered. Then in a stronger voice said, “No. Sky’s not that stupid. He wouldn’t just leave the base like that. He can’t get to the surface in one jump. Maybe not even in two.”

Thundercracker shook his head. “He was upset. He’s never all that rational, and he was really upset with us.”

“Me,” Starscream said softly. “I hurt him.”

Thundercracker stepped forward and pulled Starscream into a hug. “We hurt him. I checked the lift too. It hasn't been keyed since Megatron left for the space bridge. Skywarp didn’t leave that way, and I don’t think he’s in the ship.” Starscream tried to pull out of the embrace, but Thundercracker didn’t let go.

“Let me go, Thundercracker,” Starscream ground out.

Shaking his head, Thundercracker tried to reason with him. “I can’t, Star. If you leave the base, Megatron will flip out.” Starscream raised an optic ridge, and pulled against the arms holding him. “I’m not letting go. You want to turn this into a brawl then we can, but you’ll be no help at all to Skywarp if you get deactivated by the boss.”

Starscream struggled a bit, but not enough to break free. Truthfully, the real struggle was with himself. He didn’t want to abandon Skywarp wherever he was, but Thundercracker was right. If he left the ship, or even sent someone out to look for Skywarp, Megatron would punish him. Probably severely. He was already going to be facing trouble since two of his seekers found the drug before he and Soundwave, then moronically used it on themselves.

Starscream was still furious over that. Thinking of his own fear and how the situation had affected Thrust and Misfire made him even angrier. He sighed, and relaxed. Skywarp, he thought miserably. There was a chance that Skywarp was fine. Some part of him knew it. If they kept it quiet maybe he would return home on his own, and everything would be fine?

Thundercracker wrapped his arms tighter around Starscream. “We’ll find him. There are still plenty of places he could be hiding.” He tried to sound hopeful, but his voice cracked a bit.

Starscream shook his head against Thundercracker’s shoulder. “No. I think you’re right. He left the base.” It was the same instinct that told him Skywarp was alive. They stood there for a moment wrapped together before Starscream heard the slight sniffle. He leaned back and caught Thundercracker’s face between his hands before he could pull away and hide his tears. “Honey…”

Thundercracker smirked, and brushed the pale energon drops away in a move that was supposed to look careless, but fell short when another few tears appeared. He threw in a helpless shrug, and said, “I just… Oh, Primus, Star! What if he’s at the bottom of the ocean and it’s all my fault?!”

Starscream had no words, and his own spark froze in fear and grief. He caught at Thundercracker, and shook his head in wordless denial.

“We’ll find him. We’ll figure out something, but I know he’s not deactivated. I know it, Thundercracker.”

Once again, Thundercracker wished they were bonded. They would then know for sure where Skywarp was and that he was safe and sound. Thundercracker nodded, newly determined to bond as soon as he convinced his lovers.

~ | ~

Since recharge would have been impossible, Starscream and Thundercracker decided to continue searching. They stayed together and looked everywhere they could think of, neither really expecting to find Skywarp, but unable to just do nothing. Starscream even took them to Blight and Bane’s quarters.

Fruitless hours later, Starscream’s comm beeped. //Megatron’s come back. He’s waiting for you and Soundwave in the command room,// Frenzy told him.

Starscream sighed, then responded. //On my way.// He cut the link, and turned to Thundercracker.

“I’m going with you.”

“He’ll be suspicious why you’re up so early,” Starscream reasoned.

“I’m going with you,” Thundercracker repeated, and began to walk toward the command center.

Starscream caught up easily. “He’s not going to be happy. I don’t want you anywhere near him.” Thundercracker kept right on going. “I’ll order you back to quarters,” Starscream threatened. Skywarp was already missing. He couldn’t risk Thundercracker too.

Thundercracker turned a look on his commander, nearly daring him. “I’ll disobey,” he said in a low voice.

Starscream might have continued to argue, but Soundwave appeared from an adjoining corridor, and the three entered the command center together.

Megatron watched as Soundwave went one way and the seekers the other. And where’s Skywarp then? he wondered. “Report,” Megatron commanded. He was watching his Second, wondering what had him looking so guilty. In fact both seekers seemed very uncomfortable. It was Soundwave that spoke.

“Situation: Triggerhappy and Slugslinger in the infirmary. Compound used for pleasure. Status: Unrepairable.”

Megatron was unable to stop the incredulous look. “They what?!” he roared. Every mech in the room flinched. Many stepped back. Frenzy and Rumble grabbed at each other and moved toward the door. Megatron noted it all, and returned his glare to Starscream. “Explain this,” he growled, trying to rein in his temper.

Starscream regained his composure quickly given his obvious fear, thought Megatron. “Apparently someone that witnessed the… incident in the hall told them the drug only lowers inhibitions. Once they are repaired I have a few creative punishments to add to whatever you choose.”

“Anything else?” Megatron demanded. He knew, just knew, Starscream was hiding something from him. It was like an extra sense or special program. The Starscream Bullshit Meter, he thought wryly, smirking to himself at how apt some human phrases were.

Starscream looked distinctly uncomfortable, and Thundercracker shifted nervously. Realization dawned, and Megatron thought he knew what they were fidgeting for. “How were you repaired, Starscream?” He was met with stunned silence.

“Thundercracker,” Megatron nearly purred. Thundercracker looked up, his expression turning from nervous to fearful. Starscream took a half step to the side in a pointless move to block Megatron. The Decepticon leader snatched his Second by the arm and flung him away. He watched with sadistic joy as the other seeker shrunk back in fear. “Tell me, Thundercracker. How was Starscream repaired?”

“Not a word,” Starscream ordered.

Megatron laughed, and everyone took another step backward. Except Starscream. He stepped forward, fists clenched. “Not a word,” he repeated.

Megatron slyly shifted his gaze between the two seekers. Slowly and deliberately he lifted his arm cannon and charged it to full power. He smiled cruelly as a whimper escaped Thundercracker, but kept his optics locked on Starscream.

Optics wide in horror, Starscream whispered, “You wouldn’t.”

“Try me,” Megatron dared, face alight with malicious intent.

Starscream looked at Thundercracker. His optics were wide and he’d pressed himself, quaking in fear, against the wall. Everyone knew that one shot from Megatron’s cannon on full power would destroy him. Thundercracker seemed incapable of tearing his gaze away. Starscream took a step forward, and Megatron clenched his fist a little tighter, ready to fire.

“Answer me, you insolent brat, or I’ll blast his spark through the bulkhead.”

Another small sound issued from Thundercracker. Starscream decided to try dealing. “Let him leave.”


“Star…” Thundercracker had managed to look away from the barrel, and was now pleading with his optics.

“The Autobots,” Starscream said quickly and quietly.

Megatron’s arm dropped a little, but the cannon didn’t power down. Starscream took a chance and bolted to stand between his wingmate and obviously furious ruler. He didn’t miss the raised optic ridges and looks of curiosity at the move, and cursed inwardly, but he couldn’t just leave Thundercracker vulnerable either.

“Autobots?” Megatron ground out. “You went to the Autobots?”

“You must understand, my lord Megatron,” Starscream said switching automatically to his I’m-so-loyal-and-enthralled-by-you voice. “I thought you had ordered it. Blight said you did. They couldn’t very well take me to Hook.”

Megatron considered for a moment. He was enraged, but if his Constructicons couldn’t fix Slugslinger and Triggerhappy now it was reasonable that Skywarp and Thundercracker had taken Starscream to the Autobots. Especially since they did repair him. He powered down the arm cannon. “Very well. We will go and abduct the Autobot medic.”

Before he could continue Starscream interrupted. “No!”

“No?” Megatron queried in a dark voice.

“He helped me. Me, Megatron! We could simply ask. Meet on neutral ground. Why risk damage and failure when chances are high Ratchet would willingly assist?”

Megatron was fuming. Leave it to his foolish Second to come up with a plan that would humiliate him. “I am willing to forgive your wingmates for being so rash as to ask Autobots for help. Your case was different.” He didn’t miss the pained expression fall over Thundercracker’s face. “But I refuse to beg assistance we can simply take from our enemies.”

“But Megatron, they are so unbelievably, foolishly noble! They would help.” Megatron looked ready to power up his weapon again, so Starscream rushed on trying to convince him. “I owe him! I owe the medic-”

“Enough!” Megatron bellowed. “We leave now, and attack them before noon.” Starscream was shaking his head, but Megatron turned away issuing orders.

“We stay behind,” Thundercracker whispered right Starscream’s audial. “After they leave, we sneak out and look for Sky.”

Starscream felt Thundercracker step back as Megatron turned back toward them. “I’m not going,” Starscream stated, and petulantly crossed his arms over his chest.

Megatron growled. The other Decepticons were already hurrying out. It’d do no good to argue with Starscream now. “Fine,” he said. “But if I find you’ve tried to sabotage this mission I’ll deactivate you and your wingmates.

“I won’t interfere,” Starscream glared back defiantly, “but I’m not about to help you with this either.”

Megatron snarled inarticulately before sweeping from the room.

“Ten minutes. Then we start island hopping. Skywarp’s probably lying on a beach somewhere afraid to come home,” Starscream said. They headed out and waited for the lift to return from the surface.

~ | ~

Consciousness returned with a sharp spasm and an involuntary jerk.

Least I’m still functioning. Sorta, Skywarp thought once the pain receded.

He slowly began taking stock. Communications were still down. He had no idea where he was because global positioning was offline as well. Skywarp assumed he was still sitting in the hip deep water, but all tactile functions were still gone too, as was any ability to move. The only sensation he could really feel was the low throb of pain as it pulsed all around him. He was still blind, but it would have been a miracle to wake up and be able to see again.

I can still hear though. Skywarp focused on the sounds around him. The one sound really. The water lapped gently against the rocks he sat on. At least he figured he was still sitting. I’m not inhaling salt water, so that’s a bonus.

Skywarp allowed his thoughts to drift a bit. He’d acted foolishly the night before. At least he assumed it’d only been the one night. Surely they’d have found him if it’d been longer? Was it even day now? He tried to shake the blossoming fear away. Of course they’ll find him. They won’t give up on me.

He had been a jerk. Or what if they couldn’t leave? What if Megatron had returned and punished Starscream for Skywarp leaving? What if Thundercracker had tried to protect him, and was now barely more than scrap metal in the infirmary? Panic licked at his damaged circuits.

Skywarp wished vehemently that he’d pushed Starscream harder. That he’d taken Thundercracker’s side and tried to wheedle him into the bonding. True, it wouldn’t have been totally right to rush Starscream, but at least he’d know if they were ok. He’d be able to communicate that he was sorry, and wanted nothing so much as to be safe and warm and snuggled up on their berth between them.

His vocal processors emitted a hoarse whine, and Skywarp realized he was crying again. Testing his voice gently, he discovered that it was shorted out too. Great! I can’t even yell for help if I heard them fly near, he thought morosely. Skywarp could feel his spark slipping deeper into a well of depression, and didn’t bother to fight it. He knew he couldn’t keep functioning in his condition for much longer. I’m so stupid.

~ | ~

Starscream bounced on the tips of his feet impatiently as the lift took them toward the surface. It was moving entirely too slow for his tastes.

Thundercracker grinned, and watched his wingmate fidget and try to stare holes into the ceiling. “Ok, sparkling. Calm down, or there’ll be no more sweet treats for you.”

Starscream forced himself to stand still, and cast a mock glare at Thundercracker. He paused to consider, tilting his head to the side. “I don’t think I’ve had any of those little energon candies since well before we left Cybertron.”

“Too bad the boss doesn’t like any of us, he could have brought some back.”

Starscream snorted at the image that popped up. “Oh, I can just see that!” He chortled. “Rumble and Frenzy would be the first in line jumping up and down. ‘Megatron! Megatron! Me first, Megatron!’”

Thundercracker laughed outright at both the squeaky voice Starscream had used, and the mental image it created. Starscream was smiling broadly too. It melted quickly though, as the lift stopped and they were able to step out into the bright morning sunlight.

The very scope of the task finally hit home. “Primus! How are we going to find him out there?” Thundercracker asked, making a sweeping gesture with his hand. Nothing but vast ocean surrounded them.

Starscream paused and focused all his thoughts on Skywarp. He was desperately trying to pull some feeling for direction out of nowhere. He knew Skywarp was alive and up here somewhere, but beyond that, and that could be wishful thinking, he couldn’t feel anything else.

“What are you doing?” Thundercracker asked.

Starscream sighed. “Nothing. Thinking. Let’s try the island chain to the northwest.” So saying, he took off in mech form. Thundercracker shook his head, and followed.

They flew a short distance from one another, but within shouting range. Island after empty island was searched for any sign at all that a Cybertronian had been there. Both of them kept their sensors at their longest ranges, but still had no luck.

Thundercracker felt hope leaving him. Skywarp was probably down below in the black of this mudball planet’s ocean. “I wish we’d bonded,” he said out loud.

Starscream had flown closer, and heard the quiet comment. Irritation shot through him. He growled deep in his chest before he could stop himself.

Thundercracker looked up, surprised to see his wingmate so close and angry. It made him angry in turn. “Well if we were all bonded, we’d know whether he was dead or not! We’d know where he was, and maybe even be able to communicate through the bond alone!”

Starscream’s anger evaporated as he watched Thundercracker fight back tears. He reached out and pulled him into a midair hug. He was about to speak when his sensors caught a tiny blip at the edge of his range. Starscream straightened and looked to the northeast. “Come on!” he shouted, and grabbed Thundercracker’s hand to drag him a little ways before letting go and transforming.

Thundercracker watched Starscream’s jet form shoot away, and quickly followed. His own sensors soon picked up a weak signal too, and hope rose.

~ | ~

A part of Skywarp knew he was in trouble. That he was in serious danger of offlining for good if he didn’t get some help soon. Most of his mind though was floating. The pulsating pain had intensified in some areas to something sharper. He knew where his wing was even without being able to feel and that his damaged leg was doing worse for all the salt water that had soaked in while he sat there waiting.

The sound of the waves lulled him. Skywarp drifted between consciously listening for the sound of anyone coming to rescue him, and dreaming that they already did and he was in recharge in the medbay. Or that they never had. Or were flying in to save him as he thought about it.

It was then, in that half-waking dream state, where he heard the deep rumble of jet engines. I’m sleeping again. I should try to wake up. He couldn’t. The dream gripped him tight, and dragged him in to it. Skywarp even heard a double splash as his wingmates landed, one behind and one in front.

“Slag me,” Starscream swore softly.

Thundercracker crouched down behind Skywarp, frowning and the grinding whine that sounded from him. “You can say that again.”

“Slag!” Starscream repeated in a stronger voice. Thundercracker raised an optic ridge at him, but he wasn’t looking anywhere but at the heavily damaged mech between them. “If I couldn’t see purple on his wings, I’d doubt it was even him. And look at his wing. How the frag did that happen?” Starscream paused a moment and gently put his hand on Skywarp’s shoulder. There was no response. He looked up to Thundercracker, his face displaying all the panic and fear he felt when Skywarp didn’t even acknowledge their presence.

Skywarp slowly realized that he wasn’t recharging. It was real. They’d found him.

“Sky? Can you hear me?” Thundercracker asked, leaning in close to Skywarp’s audial. Another whining, grinding sound came from Skywarp. “Vocalizer’s out.”

Starscream nodded absently. He’d already discovered that in his scans. He shook his head in disbelief as the list continued to grow.

“What all’s wrong with him?” Thundercracker asked.

“Be easier to tell you what’s still functioning,” Starscream muttered, but almost immediately began to list off Skywarp’s injuries. The scientist in him was well aware it was a miracle that his wingmate was even alive. He focused solely on the data and needed repairs, and calculated how long Skywarp had if left untreated. He had no idea the effect he was having on his wingmates until he looked up and saw the expression on Thundercracker’s face. Tears stood unshed and his mouth was dropped open. It was when that soft bottom lip actually trembled that Starscream suddenly realized how he’d sounded. He’d droned on with his emotions locked away to protect himself and had forgotten how hearing all that would affect his trine.

“Oh Primus, I’m so sorry. That was stupid.”

Thundercracker blinked a few times, and shook his head. “Think he was attacked? I mean look at all these scorch marks.”

Starscream cast him a disbelieving look, and then smirked. “You’ve been a warrior longer than me, and you’re telling me these look like blaster marks?”

Thundercracker grunted, then asked, “Can we move him?”

“Yes. Sooner back the better,” Starscream answered. Skywarp made some squealing noise obviously trying to communicate. “Don’t push your vocalizer, Skywarp. We’ll take you home and get you repaired.”

“This is going to hurt him, isn’t it?” Thundercracker asked.

Starscream nodded in reply, then moved to Skywarp’s left side and looped his arm around his neck. He reached his own arm around the charred back while Thundercracker followed suit on the opposite side. A shrill sound was torn from Skywarp that made his wingmates wince in pain, guilt, and sympathy, but there was only this one way to get him back to base.

“Let’s go,” Starscream said, and slowly engaged his thrusters, giving Thundercracker a chance to do the same without twisting their wingmate unnecessarily.

It was a slow and painful flight back to the base, but they made it by midday. Starscream sighed in relief as Thundercracker took Skywarp, cradling his wingmate gently, and headed to the medbay.

Starscream turned back to the lift and keyed it to return to the surface. Skywarp was a disaster, but there was a chance, no matter how slim, that this could all go unnoticed. Megatron may be furious with him, but Slugslinger and Triggerhappy were the bigger concern right now. He could handle the Decepticon leader if it meant protecting his wingmates. Run interference as it were, and keep Megatron distracted. He was very willing to earn himself a beating and a stay in the brig for a while if it kept them safe.

Starscream turned and moved quickly to the medbay. He’d check on Skywarp, be certain he’d be all right, and then try to reach the Autobots. He had no intention of betraying Megatron to them, but if he hurried maybe he could arrange something separate with the medic. By the time Megatron and the troops returned, Triggerhappy and Slugslinger would be on the mend.

~ | ~

Megatron watched as Sunstreaker let out a war whoop that could freeze energon, and threw himself at a trio of Decepticons. Sideswipe laughed and dove in after him. Those two were mad, but he wouldn’t worry about his troops at the moment. He took steady aim and blasted an Autobot that was on the fringe of the battle. He signaled a group of his fighters as the medic dashed to his fallen comrade’s side.

Decepticons rushed in and easily surrounded him. Ratchet looked around helplessly. True he could fight, but there were seven of the enemy and only one of him.

“Hey! They got him!” The words sounded, loudly, across the battlefield. Megatron was tempted to palm his face at the idiocy. He restrained himself, and tried to see which of his morons would get beaten within an inch of his life later.

Unfortunately all optics were turned on the surrounded medic and not the fool that had shouted. In a rush every Autobot present raced toward Ratchet and his would-be captors.

Megatron growled, trying desperately to suppress the howl of rage threatening to break free. “Fall back!” he bellowed as his troops were swarmed over and the medic safely ensconced behind his comrades. “Retreat!” He waited only a moment to be certain no one would be left behind, then launched skyward. Megatron didn’t trust himself to speak. He despised retreating, but the objective had been lost. The only hope he’d had once so many Autobots had appeared was the element of surprise and the secrecy of the reason for the attack. That had been ruined. He ground his teeth together and growled again.

Soundwave glanced at his leader. He’d wait until Megatron had settled down a bit before naming names. They couldn’t afford any deactivations due to temper right now. Perhaps this evening he’d distract his lord, and then tell him. Offer a more suitable punishment.

~ | ~

Starscream finally managed to get an answer from the Autobot base. He was greeted with a growl once he was recognized. “What do you want? Haven’t the Deceptions done enough today?”

“I had no part in that. Megatron wouldn’t listen to me when I said we should just ask for your medic’s help. He failed in his attempts I hope?”

“Of course, Deceptiscum. Now what do you want with Ratchet? Why didn’t you warn us that he was gonna be attacked? You owe him, Starscream! You were brought here nothing but a sniveling mess, and it was Ratchet, and Ratchet alone, who was willing to help you.”

Starscream listened to the tirade, nodding along. “I couldn’t tell you because Megatron would have my head. He’ll probably take me apart just for contacting you. We need the medic’s help. Two of my seekers found the leftover drug and were stupid enough to use it on themselves.” There was a snort of unconcealed laughter. “I know. I’m sorely tempted to leave them, but then I remember the pain, and I can’t. Will you please let me speak with Ratchet?” He paused. “Or Prime?”

“Or how about you slag off?” The communication was cut.

Starscream sighed, and tried again. Then again. Then again. Each time there was a blip that showed the communication had been answered and cut before the picture could form.

“Oh very mature,” he muttered as his comm beeped.

//Star, you should get down here,// Thundercracker said softly.

//What’s wrong?// Starscream asked, already moving.

//They’ve done all they can to stabilize Sky and fix the exterior damage. He’s even got his optics back.//

//That’s good though,// Starscream said in confusion.

//Yeah, that’s great, but his systems were fried. Hook says it looks like he was zapped by lightning. Says it’s consistent with all those scorch marks.//


//Yeah. So they have to reboot his systems.//

Starscream paused and stood still for a moment in the hallway. //Reboot? As in complete systems shutdown and restart?// That could be dangerous. It was a simple thing, but could take a while for full reboot and sometimes complications arose before the mech was back online.

//Yeah,// was the whispered reply. //He’s scared, Star.// Starscream was certain he could hear an unspoken ‘I’m scared too’ from Thundercracker. Or maybe it was his own mind?

//I’m on my way,// Starscream said. He listened as Thundercracker wordlessly cut the connection, then hurried to the infirmary.

The Constructicons had been working on Skywarp for a good four hours, and he really did look much better. His finish was still scuffed, and there were some dents showing here and there. He was also mobile again which was evidenced by Skywarp reaching both arms out to Starscream as soon as he saw his wingmate.

“Star!” he rasped, voice still damaged.

Starscream stepped close, and without thinking, bent and wrapped his arms around Skywarp, pulling him half up from the repair table and securely into an embrace.

Skywarp was babbling apologies mixed with statements of his fears, and clinging tightly to Starscream. Starscream looked up at Thundercracker and realized what position he was in when he also caught sight of the odd looks the Constructicons were giving him. Too late now, he thought. Besides, Skywarp needed him. His spark felt squeezed when he realized his wingmate was crying. How terrified he must have been. How terrified he must still be facing reboot.

“You’ll be fine, Sky. Thundercracker and I are right here, and we won’t leave your side.” He shot a look at Thundercracker.

“That’s right, Cupcake,” Thundercracker said with forced cheer. “We’ll be right here waiting for you to recharge and wake up.”

Skywarp tilted his head back, energon tears glittering in the bright lights of the medbay. “I’m so scared, Star.”

Starscream leaned down to lay Skywarp back on the berth. “Don’t be. Reboot’s simple. You’ll go to sleep, and then you’ll wake up.” He signaled to Hook to get ready, and remained in place, leaning over Skywarp. Starscream gently placed his hands on Skywarp’s face. “Love you,” he whispered against soft silvery lips.

Skywarp’s optics drifted shut as Starscream kissed him lightly. A little sigh escaped, and Starscream shifted his gaze to see the Hook stepping back with an empty syringe.

Starscream stood and stepped straight into Thundercracker’s arms. The Constructicons had enough tact to ignore them, and got to work on Skywarp.

Starscream and Thundercracker stood silent guard while Skywarp’s systems were shutdown, and then the meticulous process of replacing fried circuits and melted wires began. Once that was done they’d restart his systems, and one by one Skywarp would come back online.

It was going to be a long wait.

~ | ~

Megatron was a dangerous being even when in a good mood. If needed for the Cause, he’d decimate even loyal followers without remorse. So when angry, raging, furious, burning with a desire to destroy, the only safe place for anyone was far, far away.

However, Megatron also knew that to destroy his own troops was counter productive. Slag! He’d lost three within the last Earth month! More would be very inconvenient indeed. So when he landed first, and alone, on the platform of his base, he didn’t wait. The other Decepticons weren’t that close, many helping comrades too damaged to have made the trip alone. They could wait for Soundwave to call the lift back up.

Megatron entered the lift, quietly fuming. Starscream and his fool seekers entered his mind, and he was sorely tempted to go and take out his rage on the insubordinate Second in Command. A good portion of that rage was because he knew Starscream had been right. They could have orchestrated it so the Decepticons didn’t appear quite as weak while asking for assistance.

A dark growl resonated from deep within Megatron’s chest. If he went anywhere near Starscream, the haughty little seeker would point out Megatron’s failure with glee, so he stomped toward his quarters where he could be alone.

The corridors were fortunately empty. Megatron snarled again, knowing his control would snap if he had to deal with anyone right now. He keyed a complex code into his door access panel, far more aggressively than required, and entered his suite. The door closed, and all remained quiet for a few moments.

Glowing golden optics peeped cautiously around the corner. The hall nearly echoed with silence for a moment. Ravage jerked back as a roar suddenly vibrated the metal decking under his claws. He crept backwards silently. Soundwave had told him what had happened, and wanted his leader followed carefully.

Using the telepathy all Soundwave’s creations had with their maker, Ravage informed him of Megatron’s location and behavior. He is in his quarters. He is angry.

Acknowledged, was the reply.

Further instructions? Ravage couldn’t quite keep the fear of having to stay nearby from leaking through the bond.

Return to quarters, Soundwave instructed, feeling Ravage relax, and knew he’d waste no time in getting away to safer ground.

Soundwave entered the code to return the lift to the surface. All had landed and were waiting quietly. Soundwave turned to face the other Decepticons. “Injured report to sickbay. Uninjured report to quarters.” Keeping everyone behind closed doors would probably be best, at least until the evening when everyone would report for their energon. By then, Soundwave hoped to have contacted Megatron and arranged a private meeting. He headed to his own quarters to wait.

~ | ~

They stood silently by for two hours, watching the Constructicons work. Hook and Scrapper removed and replaced melted and fused wires and circuits. Fried relays were taken away, and new ones smoothly inserted.

Thundercracker stood behind Starscream, feeling the slight trembling. Starscream remained locked in the position Thundercracker had pulled him into after he had tried to rush forward. The sight of the Constructicons pulling a rather sizable clump of twisted and melted slag from the area near Skywarp’s spark had very nearly been too much. Thundercracker had caught Starscream by the wings and jerked him back. He twined their fingers, wrapping their arms across Starscream’s middle. Thundercracker didn’t even really know what he had been saying. He’d murmur something softly to Starscream, and sometimes he’d get something equally unintelligible back.

Starscream finally tugged against Thundercracker’s hold. He just couldn’t watch any more. They were doing something else right by Skywarp’s spark casing, and it made him horribly nervous. He pulled his wings in and spun around in his wingmate’s arms to bury his face in a warm neck. Thundercracker’s hand caressed his back lightly, and he whispered something softly.

They stood that way for a while longer before Hook finally announced they had finished. “All right,” he said as Starscream turned back around, and he and Thundercracker approached the med berth.

“Everything went really well and his systems are already beginning to come back online. It’s going to be a few hours, at least, and he may not even wake then. Recharge is critical right now, so if he does wake, try to get him to go back into recharge. We can always sedate him if we need to.” Hook watched as Starscream lightly ran his fingers across Skywarp’s arm. Thundercracker had stepped close again, and stood with an arm draped easily around Starscream’s waist. Never thought I’d see the day our crazy Second would love anything but power, Hook thought, but was almost immediately distracted by the sound of many mechs entering the medbay.

Conversation was subdued, and in looking at Rumble, who was supporting a rather rough looking Frenzy, Hook knew it had not gone well.

What little talk there had been as the wounded and damaged entered the infirmary stopped. Curious optics took in the sight of Starscream against Thundercracker and stroking Skywarp’s face. With a look and a nod, Scrapper took over and began triage. Hook stepped close to the seekers. “Help me move him to a private room. It’ll be quieter there.”

Thundercracker smiled in appreciation. Quiet indeed. Hook was allowing them all privacy away from the other Decepticons. Together, they wheeled Skywarp’s berth into a room across the hall from Triggerhappy and Slugslinger. Starscream spared them a glance. He’d try again. Maybe he’d be able to get communications through to someone who would actually listen to him.

Hook pulled a cord down from a monitor over Skywarp’s head and connected it to a port in the seeker’s chest, then flipped the power on. “When this flashes complete, you can turn the monitor off and then unplug him. If the alarm sounds, don’t touch anything, just call for me. He should be fine though.” Then Hook left to see to the other injured.

Starscream stayed close for a few moments. One hand on the small of Thundercracker’s back, the other lightly stroking Skywarp and Thundercracker’s intertwined fingers. “I’m going to go see if I can get through to the Autobots and help the others.” He paused while Thundercracker nodded. “You’ll be ok?” Another nod. Starscream leaned up and brushed his lips against Thundercracker’s cheek, then bent and lightly kissed Skywarp’s slack mouth too. “Let me know if there’s any change.” Then he snuck across the hall.

Starscream quietly closed the door behind him, and locked it. There would be no end of trouble if anyone stumbled in there with him talking to an Autobot. He crossed quickly to the computer console, and began hacking it into the main communications array. He quickly had a signal out, and this time it was answered by a different Autobot. Starscream nearly sighed in relief, but it was to be short lived.

“What do ya want?” Ironhide growled.

“Please!” Starscream said, holding up a hand to stop Ironhide from cutting him off. “I need to speak with Ratchet. There’s been another incident with the drug.”

“Ya got some nerve, Decepticon. Attacking us, then beggin’ for help!”

Starscream sighed. “I wasn’t there, and I was against it. Megatron is furious with me for it too. I argued that we should just ask, but I lost.”

“Whatever, Deceptitrash. We ain’t helping ya again.” The signal was cut.

Starscream growled in frustration, and slammed his fist down on the console. So much for that idea. Try, try again.

The next four attempts were turned aside as well, and Starscream gave up for the time being. His spark was torn. Skywarp was recovering from near death across the hall, but two of his seekers were lying behind him in deep stasis due to a monstrous drug. He sighed, and turned away. Thundercracker needed him, and he was conscious. He’d try to reach the Autobot medic later.

~ | ~


Ironhide jumped in surprise, and cursed at himself for it. “What?!”

Ratchet plastered on his best glare. “That was Starscream, and he said something about the drug.” He noticed the beep and Ironhide quickly tapped the connect/disconnect button twice. “What are you doing?” he asked suspiciously.

“Ya aren’t helpin’ them again, Ratch. Them ‘Cons tried ta steal ya away, and Primus only knows what they’d’ve done ta ya if they’d succeeded.” He double tapped the button again.

“I think it’s my choice to help them or not. And Starscream wasn’t there today.” Ratchet moved forward, trying to get closer to the comm system.

“Yeah, but what do ya think Prime’s gonna say when he finds out?”

Tap tap.

Ratchet growled in irritation. His response was interrupted, however, when Optimus entered and asked, “What would I say about what?”

Ratchet turned, but Ironhide beat him to the response. “Ratchet thinks he’s gonna go ahead and help the Deceptifreaks even after that stunt they pulled today.”

Optimus Prime turned disbelieving optics to Ratchet. Behind him, Ratchet heard a distinct tap tap as Ironhide blocked the attempted transmission again. He spun around. “You know that could be someone else, right?”

“It’s not,” was the simple reply.

“You will not contact the Decepticons under any circumstances, Ratchet.” Ratchet opened his mouth to debate, but Optimus cut right across him, showing a good deal of anger. “That’s a direct order. No contact. No help. Have you already forgotten how many were injured today? What about Prowl? He took a direct hit from Megatron just so they could draw you out.”

Ratchet’s chin dropped. He felt somewhat abashed, but there were others suffering from that drug. That horrible, awful, never should have been invented drug! He’d never forget the way Starscream had wept and trembled on his table.

“Ratchet!” Optimus barked.

Ratchet nodded. “Yes, sir.” He left without looking up, and headed straight for his quarters.

“He’s too soft,” Ironhide said, shaking his head. At least the comm had stopped beeping.

Optimus shook his head. “He’s not too soft, but I’m afraid that his drive to heal and fix everyone manages to shut down his logic circuits sometimes.” Optimus shook his head again, and walked out, leaving Ironhide alone to monitor the command center.

~ | ~

Ratchet gasped, and sat bolt up right on his berth. His respiration was loud in the quiet, dark room.

A nightmare. Just a nightmare, he thought, trying to calm down. It had been weeks since the last nightmare about Starscream’s attack had woke him, but it had been worse this time. Autobots lay all about the base, screaming in agony, and Ratchet was the only one not affected… yet. Then someone large with red glowing optics had slammed him to the wall, and a blaze of pain engulfed his spark.

Ratchet stood, and quickly made his way to the medbay. Wheeljack was there at a desk, completely absorbed in some new project. “Hey, Jack,” he greeted softly.

Wheeljack jumped, and dropped the tool he’d been using. “Geez, Ratch! What’re you doin’ up this late?” Then he took a good long look at the medic. “You look rough.”

Ratchet snickered. “Thanks.” He rubbed at his face. “I need your help. Can you hack a signal for me?”

“Sure. Which console?” Wheeljack stood up, and Ratchet led him to his own office, motioning to his personal console. “Ok. Who am I callin’?” Wheeljack got busy booting up the system and connecting to the mainframe.

“There was a call this evening that repeated four or five times. I need to get through to whatever console or computer monitor it came from.”

Wheeljack tapped away at the keys and asked curiously. “Who ya gotta call in the middle of the night?”

Ratchet considered his answer carefully. He didn’t want Wheeljack in trouble for doing this and knowing why, but any evasiveness would pique his curiosity. Wheeljack stopped, and looked over his shoulder. He smiled. “Ok, keep your secrets. Geez, you’re a million miles from here, aren’t ya?” A few more taps and clicks, and he announced. “Done! Have fun.”

Ratchet watched as his friend left the office and returned to his own project, then closed and locked the door. He sat staring at the monitor as it beeped quietly, waiting for an answer.

~ | ~

Starscream looked at the screen above Skywarp’s head. He’d been unplugged from it for about thirty minutes now, so where was that infernal beeping coming from?

Thundercracker was half way to recharge, but looked sleepily up. “Are you gonna answer that, or do I have to get up?”

Starscream blinked, then with dawning understanding, shot across the hall to the console in Slugslinger and Triggerhappy’s room. He jabbed his finger onto the connection button roughly, and gasped out, “Yes?!”

Ratchet’s face appeared, but he looked around behind Starscream before speaking. “Tell me what happened,” he demanded, fear edging his voice.

Starscream sighed as Thundercracker came up behind him. “They’re idiots.” Ratchet raised an optic ridge at that, but Starscream continued. “Someone told them that the drug only lowered inhibitions, and they got it into their heads to try it out the other night.”

Ratchet blinked. “They weren’t- They weren’t raped then?” He sagged in relief.

“No. They did this to themselves, and if I wasn’t just so vividly aware of the pain they’re in, I’d leave them to suffer a bit.”

“How much of the drug is left?”

Thundercracker answered this time. “Supposedly only one more vial. We’ve been looking for it for the last few days.”

Ratchet raised an optic ridge again. “And? Will it be destroyed? I’m breaking a direct order to help you tonight. I don’t want my aft slagged for nothing when Optimus finds out about this.”

“I want everything that has anything to do with that drug destroyed, and never seen, or thought of again,” Starscream hissed.

Ratchet nodded, then asked, “So what do you need my help with?”

“I can’t remember, and the Constructicons can’t figure out how to get their spark defenses back online,” Starscream answered.

“Ok.” Ratchet clapped and rubbed his hands together. “Turn me so I can see what we’re doing here.”

~ | ~

Soundwave looked around his sparse quarters again. All his creations, except for Ravage, were out and staying away for the night, and Ravage would be leaving soon.

Soundwave was uncharacteristically nervous. His communication to Megatron had been hours ago. It was nearly midnight now, and even though he was quite tired, Soundwave didn’t dare lay down to recharge.

Ravage let out a quiet growl. His creations were the only beings in the universe he couldn’t hide his emotions from. At least not completely. Soundwave walked to his door, keying it open. Ravage paused and dipped his helm, but not at Soundwave, then proceeded out. Soundwave looked up sharply, right into Megatron’s optics.

Megatron smirked. “You invited me, Soundwave. Why so surprised?” He stepped in as the telepath moved back to allow him space, glancing around the room as he did. “We are alone?”

“Yes, my lord.”

Megatron leaned close and reached past Soundwave to lock the door, then gently tapped a fingertip against the visor. “These can go then.”

Soundwave instantly retracted both visor and mask. Megatron seemed fine now on the surface, and Soundwave could detect nothing more without probing deeper and risking discovery. Megatron smiled in approval, then turned away. The telepath watched as he poked around.

“You keep it so plain in here, Soundwave.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Megatron raised an optic ridge. “The monotone can go too.”

Soundwave said nothing, and Megatron turned back fully, slowly approaching. Something was off tonight with Soundwave, and Megatron wanted to know what it was. He stepped close and ran one finger lightly down the soft face. Soundwave trembled. “Interesting.”

“My lord?”

What was wrong, Megatron wondered. Had Soundwave suddenly lost interest? Did he invite Megatron only out of obligation? Megatron mentally shook his head at that. Desire was plainly written on Soundwave’s face, but so was… fear? “What is troubling you so?” Any other would have been surprised by the gentle tone.

Emotions flitted quickly across Soundwave’s face, and as Megatron watched, Soundwave licked his lips and took a hesitant half step forward. Unable to resist, Megatron bent and pressed his mouth to Soundwave’s.

Soundwave was suddenly assaulted by thoughts and emotions. Megatron wasn’t blocking him right then. He felt the curiosity, and even concern, as to what was bothering him. Soundwave knew that Megatron wanted answers, but was willing to simply enjoy the moment. That was good. Soundwave really didn’t want to have to confess to hitting Starscream, and then answer all the mood-ruining questions such action would raise. He could feel, and reveled in the affection Megatron so rarely felt he could safely express. Buried deep and purposely ignored was the anger. There was also desire. Dark and sensuous, and only held in check by the strength of will Megatron possessed.

Megatron heard the soft gasp as he moved his mouth down and along the column of Soundwave’s throat. Hands came up of their own volition to rest against the expanse of his chest, lightly splayed over the powerful spark hidden within. So rare this gift. Soundwave would always submit, but he so seldom surrendered. Megatron felt a pulse of affection lace through the lust. Decision made, he began a thorough assault of Soundwave’s senses, including the empathy and telepathy. He let the affection bleed through in his touch and his thoughts. Allowed the passion he felt free rein.

Therefore, when Soundwave’s console beeped insistently for attention, both were annoyed.

Megatron stepped back out of view, and Soundwave replaced his visor and mask. He jabbed the answering button, and glared silently at Rumble, through their bond he allowed his irritation to be felt.

“Sorry boss, but I thought it’d be a good idea ta show you and Lord Megatron this.” Megatron stepped up. Of course the Cassetticons knew. He just didn’t like to advertise in case others were around.

“What is it, Rumble?” Megatron growled.

“Sorry, sir. Here,” Rumble said, and pushed a few keys on his end. The screen changed, dividing down the center. One side showed the Autobot medic, the other Starscream and Thundercracker bent over Slugslinger and Triggerhappy.

“I’ll kill him,” Megatron snarled.

“Suggestion: Let him work.”

Megatron looked down in surprise. “When did you start defending Starscream?”

Soundwave sent a quick thank you through his bond to Rumble, and turned off the monitor, then spoke for the first time that night without his monotone. “I’m not.”

Megatron let his optics slip shut at the sound. He was not at all sure why, but he found Soundwave’s true voice very soothing.

“This solves an issue of ours. I have found and destroyed the last vial of the drug. Starscream will have his seekers repaired by morning. You will be able to punish them for their stupidity, and Starscream will be so fearful of you punishing him for disobeying you, that he will likely not brag about his success over your-” Soundwave froze. He retracted the visor and mask, fearful of having angered his lord with what he’d nearly and carelessly said.

Megatron smiled a slightly self-depreciating smile. “Failure. Yes, my failure.” He considered for a moment while lightly tracing random patterns on Soundwave’s cheek. “The drug is destroyed?”

“Yes, my lord.” Soundwave sighed, and leaned into the touch. Megatron was allowing the desire to seep through again.

“Good.” Now where was I? he thought, but Soundwave heard it clearly, and that thought was quickly followed by a mental image of him arching in release under Megatron’s hands.

“Yes,” Soundwave whispered, and surrendered again to Megatron’s touch.

~ | ~

//Red Alert to Optimus Prime.//

Optimus dragged himself reluctantly out of recharge. The call repeated and the Autobot leader groaned. //Go ahead,// he said groggily over the comm.

“Optimus, I think you should see this. I’m patching it through to your quarters.”

The screen on his wall blinked to life and a bisected image showed Ratchet’s face, and Starscream and Thundercracker bent over what looked like two other seekers. Optimus thought for a moment. Triggerhappy and

He couldn’t remember. Then he shook his helm. Like it mattered? Optimus liked to think of himself as patient and understanding, but an uncommon rage poured through him, and he came fully awake. Ratchet had gone right behind his back and disobeyed a direct order.

Optimus had been concerned when the trio of seekers had shown up and they learned that Starscream had been raped, but they had come in peace, and truly needed help. Today -or was it yesterday by now?- the Decepticons had attacked them in an attempt to capture Ratchet, and his medic was actually helping them?! Perhaps it was he who was too soft, too lenient? Optimus turned, and made it halfway to his door before deciding he was too angry to deal fairly with his wayward CMO.


“Yes, sir?”

“Have you been recording this?”


“Good. Keep it going, and if anything other than medical knowledge begins to get passed, cut the link. Send me what you have recorded so far,” Optimus ordered.

The screen flashed black for a moment as Red Alert switched feeds, and Optimus watched. He was even angrier at what he learned next.

~ | ~

Ratchet scrubbed his face with his hands. He was exhausted, though it had gone pretty well. Starscream had a natural ability from his days as a scientist, and Thundercracker was surprisingly good at following directions and not being squeamish. Some mechs just couldn’t handle seeing the inner workings of themselves and others. He checked the chrono. “Ugh… the sun’ll be coming up here soon.”

Starscream turned to face the monitor. “I think I can take it from here. Just a few more fried relays I think, and that’ll be all.”

Ratchet nodded. “All right.” He pinned the seeker with a hard glare. “I don’t want to hear of this happening again. I won’t help you anymore.”

Starscream snapped in a new relay, and looked back over his shoulder with a grin. “Liar,” he teased.

Ratchet laughed in surprise. “You know, you aren’t half bad to deal with when you aren’t trying to kill my friends.”

Starscream grinned, and shared a brief look with Thundercracker. “We’ll suddenly have targeting system problems on the field for a while.”

Ratchet chuckled again. “See that you do. Good morning.” He cut the transmission, and sighed, dropping his helm to his hands. Better go get some rest before Prime finds out and flogs me. He stood and opened his door only to come nose to windshields.

Optimus watched as Ratchet’s shoulders sagged even more, and lifted his optics. “Care to explain yourself?”

Ratchet blinked. Wow he usually saves that tone for the twins. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Optimus crossed his arms over his chest and tapped his foot in a show of impatience. I’m slagged, Ratchet thought. “That drug, Optimus-”

Prime held out his hand. “That drug was used voluntarily.”

Ratchet blinked in surprise. He saw the whole thing! “They were suffering, Optimus! I had-”

“You had to do nothing!”

Ratchet took a step back. Optimus rarely raised his voice, but he was nearly roaring. He took a breath to calm himself slightly, and continued. “What you had to do was follow orders. They tried to abduct you Ratchet! If they had succeeded just what do you think you would be going through once the repairs were completed?”

Ratchet opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off. “The Decepticons can take care of their own. And before you even start in on me about Starscream not being in the battle, or how I didn’t argue with you helping him back then, let me just remind you that he was actually raped, and his wingmates came and asked for our help.”

Optimus turned and paced a few steps away before facing Ratchet again. “They nearly killed Prowl just to get to you because Megatron’s too prideful to ask for help that I would have willingly traded for. A temporary cease fire. Anything!” Optimus spun about and began pacing again, obviously agitated more than he was accustomed to being. “In case you’ve forgotten, we’re in the middle of a war here. If an enemy falls due to their own stupidity, I can’t help but believe that enemy should remain fallen. It’d be one less gun aimed to harm us.”

“Optimus,” Ratchet said softly. “They were suffering from a substance tailor made for rape! Not from battle wounds. How can you expect me to just turn my back on someone in pain?”

“You just put two more seekers back into the air that we didn’t have to worry about. You defied a direct order that I gave to protect you, and everyone else here under my command.” Optimus had his back turned to Ratchet, and spoke softly. He sighed hating what he had to do, but knowing it was needed regardless. “You are confined to quarters for the next two weeks except when on duty.” He looked back at Ratchet. “And Ratchet, if you ever endanger the Autobots again, I’ll throw you straight into solitary for a month.”

~ | ~

Megatron was actually in a pretty good mood as he made his way to the infirmary. Once again Soundwave had been right. That foolish Autobot had helped repair his Decepticons after all. The drug was destroyed, which was somewhat lamentable. It existing wasn’t so bad, just existing and not in Megatron’s possession, was disconcerting. One never knew when something like that could come in handy.

He sighed, the sound emerging somewhere between contentment and slight disappointment. There was no one in the corridor so Megatron allowed a small smile to curve his lips. Truly, he didn’t keep the telepath around only for his talented fingers, but none would fault him for it if he did.

Approaching the door, Megatron focused solely on the job at hand. He had punishments to dole out. The medbay door opened, and the five occupants jumped to alertness. Megatron looked into the left room and noticed Starscream and his wingmates sitting crowded together with optics wide. It looked as if they’d been curled up, piled on one another on the small repair table. He barely suppressed the snort of amused disdain, and turned to his right.

Slugslinger and Triggerhappy had the good grace to look terrified. Megatron stepped into the room, and smoothly brought his most malicious scowl to his face. Both seekers shrunk back.

“You two imbeciles are without a doubt the dumbest creatures I’ve ever had the misfortune to know.” He paused, then added, “I’m including the humans in that statement.”

Slugslinger whimpered, then slapped his hands over his mouth in a late attempt to smother it. Megatron stepped closer, encroaching on their personal space. “You are fortunate, however, that I don’t want to give the Constructicons anymore work repairing your sorry afts. Your punishment shall be six months of scrubbing this ship from top to bottom and back.”

“Six!” Triggerhappy exclaimed before stopping himself. Megatron raised an optic ridge. “Only six! I meant… uh… You’re too generous, Lord Megatron! Um…”

“Generous am I? Eight then.” Megatron grinned darkly as their optics grew even wider. “If you aren’t on guard duty, you will be cleaning. When you get to the levels containing the barracks you will inquire as to who wants you to scrub their quarters as well.” He took another step closer and leaned over Slugslinger, and in a low snarl that only they would hear asked, “Is there anymore of that drug anywhere?”

“N-n- no. No, my lord,” Slugslinger stuttered.

“Yes,” whispered Triggerhappy. Megatron’s optics blazed at him, then turned dangerously back toward the liar. “He didn’t know.” Triggerhappy’s voice gained a little volume. “I swear it. He didn’t know.”

Megatron considered them both carefully, then turned back to Triggerhappy. “Where?”

Triggerhappy shrugged apologetically at his wingmate. “Sorry I didn’t tell you.” He looked back up at Megatron. “I stuck it to a little bent area under my berth frame. There’s only a tiny bit left, but I thought if I kept it, then we could always synthesize more if we needed, or wanted it.”

“I will escort you to your quarters, and take that sample to be destroyed. That drug is entirely too dangerous to leave lying around. What about any notes on how it was made?”

Slugslinger answered this time. “We never found any. I swear it.”

“Then go. You have a nice, long day of scrubbing ahead of you.” Megatron followed them into the hall, then paused. “Oh, and Starscream tells me he had some interesting punishments for you too.” He turned to his Second, and continued in a pleasant voice. “Feel free to cut into their recharge time for whatever you had in mind.” Finally really noticing Skywarp, he asked, “What are you doing in here?”

“Oh! I… uh… bent my wing.” Skywarp chuckled a little, and smiled his brightest I’m-too-dumb-and-blissfully-ignorant-to-be-causing-trouble smile. Though all Megatron saw was a gleaming idiot’s grin.

Megatron barely managed to rein in the exasperated shake of his head. Bent his wing. How did the fool manage to do that? It wasn’t as important as getting that drug away from the other seekers, so he simply turned and left.

Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp all watched in shocked silence as Megatron left the medbay without killing any of them. A look passed around the three, and Skywarp giggled.

“Did we just get away with everything that’s happened over the last few days?” he asked.

“I think so,” Thundercracker said in a disbelieving voice.

“Speaking of the last few days. Let’s go home. We’ve got some talking to do.” Starscream got up, and headed for the door. Skywarp glanced between them guiltily, and followed.

Thundercracker sighed, and brought up the rear. And the day is just starting.

~ | ~

Skywarp watched as Thundercracker locked the door.

Starscream opened his mouth to speak, but Skywarp cut across him. “I’m sorry!” he blurted. “I know I can do some stupid things, but running out of here and teleporting out of the base sure beats them all. I just…” He paused as Thundercracker brushed his fingers over his cheek. He hadn’t even realized he was crying again. “Slag! What’s with us? Think this whole thing has rerouted our emotional circuits so they take priority over logic?”

Starscream laughed, and stepped up close, grasping Skywarp by the chin. “I love you,” he said, and kissed him. “Besides, I started it all. Had to go and get thrown in the brig and… all.” He smiled, but the grins dropped off his wingmates’ faces. “Oh don’t be so serious about it. I’m tired of being upset over it. They’re dead. The drug is destroyed, and we’re together. Pits, I’m kinda glad it happened now. In a way. It was the catalyst that brought us together.”

“Never thought of it that way,” Thundercracker said.

“I’ll never be glad you were hurt, Star.”

Starscream smiled softly. “I’m really sorry about what I said. I really didn’t mean it. I was just really angry that you jerked Thundercracker away like that. I know that doesn’t excuse it but… I’m sorry I hurt you.”

Skywarp dropped his gaze. “I’m sorry too. I don’t even know why it bothered me so much.”

“Star and I talked about it while we were looking for you. If you need it to be all three of us, or not at all, then that’s ok.”

Skywarp shook his head. “No, there’s no reason for that. If only two of us are there, then that’s fine. In fact, I wouldn’t mind ‘seducing’ Star with ‘power’ myself.” He tossed a wicked grin at Starscream.

“Wait! I haven’t apologized yet!” Starscream and Skywarp looked at Thundercracker curiously. “Well I did act without thinking, and it hurt you, Sky, and I am sorry about that.”

“Can we get to the make-up merging now?” Starscream asked in an annoyed voice.

“I’m beginning to realize it’s going to take both of us to keep him satisfied,” Thundercracker said.

Skywarp shrugged. “Should be fun.” He let a slow smile curve his lips.

Millennia of being lovers had given Thundercracker and Skywarp a very subtle understanding of each other. Starscream knew them well enough to know that they were up to something, but the nanosecond’s worth of optic contact they’d had didn’t give anything away. Another quick glance, and both mechs reached out and grabbed Starscream by an arm each.

Starscream laughed as they dragged him between them. His back was against Thundercracker’s chest, and Skywarp pressed enticingly to his front. Little tingles of awareness were skittering through him already. Starscream raised his hands and ran his fingers teasingly along Skywarp’s armor seams. He watched as a slight tremor of anticipation ran through Skywarp.

Thundercracker saw it, and did the same to Starscream, who sighed in appreciation. As Skywarp leaned in to brush his mouth over Starscream’s, an odd rush shot through him. There was lust, but also a fear. It suddenly hit him how very close he’d come to losing Skywarp. He reached up and grasped Skywarp’s face a little roughly, and deepened their kiss. Skywarp squeaked in surprise, but pressed closer.

Thundercracker watched them over a red shoulder, and ran his fingers lightly along what wires he could reach in both of them.

Starscream shifted his wings in, and broke his kiss with Skywarp only to spin in the cage of their arms and meld his lips to Thundercracker’s. Arousal coiled quickly through Thundercracker as Starscream dug his fingers gently into his sides. Skywarp ran his hands lightly across the top edges of Starscream’s wings drawing a shudder from him.

“I’ve changed my mind,” Starscream whispered into Thundercracker’s neck. He licked across the joint that connected neck to shoulder, then nipped sharply.

Thundercracker gasped. Skywarp leaned more of his weight against Starscream’s back, and asked, “Changed your mind about what, love?” He was floating in his own lazy arousal and tracing random patterns along the flat surface of Starscream’s wing.

“About bonding.”

Thundercracker jerked back as though struck. “What?”

Starscream tilted his head, and grinned. “Did you change your mind?”

Skywarp came around to face Starscream. He put an arm around Thundercracker, feeling how he trembled. “Where’s this change in mind come from?” he asked.

Starscream gripped the backs of their necks and drew them forward. “I just don’t want to waste any more time. We almost lost you, Skywarp. We’re warriors, and that could happen at any time.” He stepped closer, and kept the pressure on their necks until their cheeks touched in a rough triangle. “I don’t want to waste another moment that I could be bonded to you.” He smirked, and shifted his gaze to Thundercracker’s. “Unless, of course, you’re having doubts?”

A snicker escaped Skywarp as Thundercracker smiled, and shook his head.

Skywarp glanced back and forth between his wingmates then tilted his face up slightly. Starscream followed until their mouths were partially pressed together.

“Only whole together, Honey,” Skywarp said with a smile.

Thundercracker grinned, and pressed his lips against theirs. They chuckled at the awkward position, then Skywarp turned his face and swept into a blazing kiss with Thundercracker. He heard a low growl from his right, vents catching as Starscream stroked his fingers along circuits.

Thundercracker rumbled deep in his chest, and murmured something Skywarp didn’t quite catch. A light appeared between them, and Skywarp felt a new and unbelievable pleasure ripple through his body. The light brightened, and Thundercracker moaned. Starscream gasped.


“Sky, please!”

Skywarp smiled, and allowed his plating to slide aside and expose his spark too.

The energy touched, caressed, then fused. They were held immobile, heads flung back, arms wrapped around one another, and for a timeless, unending moment, unimaginable pleasure consumed them.


Thundercracker regained his senses first and felt -felt!- as Skywarp did. They both looked at Starscream.

Wakey-wakey, Skywarp thought as he stretched contentedly on the floor.

Starscream smiled, and they heard his sleepy chuckle in their minds. Optics slowly opened, and a sense of deep love flooded the bond.

This is so cool! Skywarp thought, and then laughed out loud.

My bonded. Thundercracker’s voice sounded softly in Starscream and Skywarp’s minds. They sat, and reached for each other.

Skywarp leaned more heavily into Starscream’s arms, and kissed him. A strange echo of sensation ghosted along his jawline, and by the way Thundercracker touched his own face, he’d felt it too. “Oh, I can’t wait ‘til we’ve recovered enough to merge!”

Starscream laughed. “Isn’t that my line?”

Thundercracker sprawled himself across their laps, and snorted. We’ll probably become as addicted as you. He smirked, and looked up at them both. “Just imagine.” He called up images in his mind. “Every touch, every kiss, every pulse of energy tripled.” He groaned wantonly, out loud and through the bond, teasing his bondmates. It only backfired a little as he felt their arousal return and quickly stoke the fires of his own passion again.

“Anyone have any special plans for today?” Skywarp asked, and began to idly trace designs on Thundercracker’s chest plating.

Starscream laughed. “I was going to go annoy Megatron, but if you have a better idea?”

His answer was to be tackled, and dragged into a hard, hot kiss.