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Comfort Conditioning

Chapter Text

The three seekers shot into the air, twisting into their jet-alts. It was a Sunday, and these days always seemed to be bright, blue, yawn and stretch type of days that seemed perfect for a flight. Starscream took point, and the three climbed in altitude when they suddenly broke formation and spiraled off.

Fancy acrobatics were only worth it if there were others watching. And it just so happened that three quarters of the Decepticon army were impatiently waiting for the flashy seekers to get on with it. Seekers were extremely high-maintenance creatures, but their primping and odd needs were only part of their quirks that the Decepticons tolerated. The worst part was their fear of closed spaces.

Ramjet, Thrust and Dirge shot into the air, mimicking the Command Trine's start and made much stronger turns that demonstrated their stability rather than their elegance. Skywarp and Thundercracker flew circles around them, second only to their leader, trinemate, and Air Commander, Starscream.

The red and white seeker relished in this flight because he knew it would be the last for quite a while. The Decepticons were trying to make contact with a subaquatic race of creatures on the satellite or moon named Europa, orbiting Jupiter. By forging an alliance with the new aliens, the Decepticons hoped to finally dominate Earth and kick the Autobots back out of the solar system so they could begin to pillage and plunder as they were wont to do.

But herein lies the problem: Subaquatic meant they were far below the thick ice sheet that covered the moon, and in the water that was kept liquid by the intense pull of the giant planet that it circled. The pressure was so dense below the surface that they feared even their plating would succumb to crushing. So they had to go in a huge spaceship-turned-submarine to meet the creatures.

Enter major conflict with the seekers: being below deck in a small enclosed space for days.

So the seekers were stretching out their wings, getting ready for the journey. One could say that Megatron must be mad for even attempting to bring the seekers down with him. But he would argue back: Would you leave Starscream alone for that long?

Hook was waiting below deck with a loaded syringe to put them all into forced-recharge, hopefully keeping them sedated for the entire trip. When they reached their destination, a huge air pocket where the civilization bloomed, the seekers would wake and be ready for orders. So before their forced sleep, the seekers twirled, danced, and spun in the air, actually looking like they enjoyed the other's company if only for this single flight.

"Bunch of femme-fairies," Rumble grumbled. Frenzy snickered, lacing his servos behind his helm.

"I think it would suck to have such obvious weak-points displayed on my back. I mean, we all know how sensitive those things are..."

An optic-waggle. "Heh, yeah. That one time Hook repaired Dirge? I thought he was going to overload just because the medic was realigning his wing-flaps."

Their hilarious laughter was cut short when Starscream flew particularly close to them, his after-burners singing the tops of their helms.

"Fragger!" The both cried, ducking quickly and earning the sniggering of the rest of the army.

"Starscream! I tire of this display. Prepare your troops for the dive."

"Yes, oh loud one. Come'on mechs, transformation-land in canon."

One after the other, the seekers transformed in midair as they landed softly on the ground near the submarine. They cascaded into a line, ending with the red and white seeker making sure to flourish at the end. No one acted impressed, though many secretly were. And it always bothered them that Starscream seemed to know they were witholding praise, but acted as if they had told him he was slagging Primus incarnate.

The seekers loaded, Starscream taking one last moment above to fully take in the scene of Earth before they left for Europa.

Already he felt his wings itch.


Megatron barked orders and his men were jumping to comply. Within a cycle, they took off and entered space to make the trip to Europa. Without fail, the Autobots had built a similar craft and were in pursuit.

Megatron had a twisted grin. At least they would have something to do on this trip.

"Incoming message from Autobot ship," toned Soundwave.

"Surprise, surprise. Patch them through."

"Megatron! Turn back immediately or we will be forced to fire." Prime's faceplate filled the screen, and every one's attention was fixated on the Autobot leader.

"Come now, Prime, I thought you wanted me to leave Earth. This is me recognizing that request." A flash of denta, and smile that would curdle energon.

Prime narrowed his optics. "We both know that is not what you are doing. Are you trying to make contact with the Europa natives?"

Megatron shrugged. "Guess you'll find out. Motormaster, full speed ahead. Astrotrain, let us give a little gift to Optimus before we leave."

"Yes, sir." A back panel in the back of their ship opened. A spread of high-impact cluster bombs covered the area between the ships. Prime cut off the transmission as Hound steered their ship away from their path, trying to avoid the bombs.

And in that instant, the Decepticons raced off to Europa.


"Alright, seekers, settle down," Hook called to the rapidly talking fliers. He was already seeing the affect of their claustrophobia sinking in as their wings twitched and they talked in higher octaves. They were nervous, and Primus help them all if they didn't calm them.

Starscream turned to Hook, folding his arms across his chassis. The others, sensing the change, did the same even if they didn't like to act as if they took orders from the red seeker. Hook looked surprised to get their attention so quickly.

"Er... We're going to begin to put you under. We'll start with the lower ranking jets and move upward through the ranks. Remember to relax and we'll wake you once we've entered the underwater city."

Starscream turned to his trine as Hook and a few other Constructicons started to sedate the seekers. "I fragging hate this."

"We'll be asleep so we won't even know we're that deep below the surface," came a soothing Thundercracker.

"Slag, I agree with 'Screamer. What if it doesn't work? What if we wake up in the middle? What if the submarine wasn't built strong enough to withstand the pressure-"

"Skywarp," Starscream growled, as the black and purple seeker tried to calm his trembling wings.

"Sorry. I just... Ugh. Why couldn't we just stay on Earth?"

TC gave a significant look to Skywarp, then tossed his helm in Starscream's direction. The red seeker groused and put his hands on his hips. "It's not like I would do anything that obvious."

"Oh, okay. Not elegant enough for you?" Skywarp sniggered.

"Shut the slag up before I use your glossa to clean the space barnacles off of the hull."

"Command Trine, we're ready for you."

The three seekers looked around, noticing that they were the last ones awake. The room was eerily quiet now, and all three seekers shivered a little in a combination of fear and discomfort. Hook shook his head, sighing. The terrors of the skies, reduced to trembling sparklings.

They hooked up an IV to the three of them, and connected them to a machine that would monitor their internal functions while they slept. No one was going to be on duty watching them, so they needed to be connected to the system in case something went wrong. First Skywarp drifted out of the bond, then TC, and finally Starscream felt himself falling asleep, his annoyance and discomfort melting away with his consciousness.

Chapter Text

 

"Decepticons, brace for impact!" Megatron bellowed. His red optics blazed with anticipation for the destruction they were about to wreak on the helpless moon of Jupiter. They had traveled for a few days when they finally reached the pale orange, striated surface of Europa. Now all they had to do was break the icy surface. It was far too smooth; it offended Decepticon sentiments.

They had quickly shed the parts of the ship that were meant for interplanetary space travel, and now they fell through the sky like a dart trying to hit the moon in an aggressive thrust.

The impact radiated throughout the hull, and many in the command center fell out of their seats since they were so far forward in the long ship. A few others were silently glad that there were no windows for them to see out; most of them didn't want to see the ice splintering and breaking because it was not such a stretch of the imagination that their own ship could be doing the same.

"Soundwave, report!"

"Statement: Sensors indicate that hull plating still at maximum strength. Forward bulkheads holding; minimal damage to sail and diving planes. Depth at twenty feet and falling."

"And the Autobots?"

"Reply: Gaining momentum to break the ice."

"Increase engines to 40%."

"Increase engines to 40%, aye sir," said Motormaster, who decided to echo the tyrant's orders since that was apparently protocol on a submarine.

Their descent was rough in the beginning, and the grating noise of ice on metal stung their audios. Megatron stopped barking orders, knowing that half of them had turned their adios off, and even he began to clench his jaw as they waited to break the ice layer, which was apparently 11 miles down.

"Observation: The Autobots have broken the ice and are in pursuit."

"Excellent. Continue on course and comm me when we are about to hit the water." Megatron left the command center, turning his frame sideways to avoid touching one of his men in the cramped space. He headed to his own private quarters which were not far down a narrow and low corridor.

They were ahead of schedule; knowing that it would take them days to get to Europa and then days once inside the planet's watery interior, they had allotted for weeks of fuel and energon. And a little more to hopefully trade with.

Megatron entered his quarters, and after taking two steps in, he hit his berth. It was well-insulated from the sound, but he could still hear it as a dull groan in the background. The room was lit with only two lights, both glowing a dim yellow as most of the energy was routed to the engine. He had ordered that his berth be the biggest thing in his room, preferring to stretch out when he wasn't deciding the fate of the Cybertronian race. The gunformer pulled out a polishing cloth and methodically cleared off some of the grime on himself not going for anything too elaborate, just a clean, shiny surface.

Usually when he was bored he would find himself faced with some kind of attempt of Starscream's to oust him as the leader of the Decepticons. So he was rarely bored. But now he found himself somewhat missing the idiotic Air Commanders desperate attempts for attention.

The problem with Starscream was there was only one thing he wanted. Power. The mech made no secret of his lust for glory and his coveting of Megatron's throne was already mythologized in historian's accounts of the war thus far. And while entertaining, and a distraction from his boredom, Starscream's plans to ascend could only be hindering the Decepticon cause, even if he didn't see it that way.

But therein lies the problem: when dealing with such obviously greedy mechs, you offered what you could to placate them and keep them under your thumb. And even then, you don't plop everything they want all at once, you give it to them over the time you want dominion over them. As one rather inspirational human said, "Benefits should be conferred gradually; and in that way they will taste better."

But Starscream only desired one thing, and Megatron could not give it to him without giving it up himself. So with nothing to offer the deceitful SIC, there was no controlling his overtures to mutiny. And despite his threats, he found it such a waste of potential to just get rid of the raspy seeker. He needed a plan, but as of yet, one had not surfaced.

Soundwave commed him through his musings, telling him they were approaching the water. Megatron rose, still thinking about how to tame his rebellious Starscream.


They dove through the water, and huge pieces of ice that had formed on the hull broke off with loud clanks that bounced off the length of the submarine. The sensors in the command center read it as a black abyss that they swam through; the only thing that popped up on their sonar was their lagging enemies.

Then there was a loud bang that was not from the ice. The whole sub shook.

"Soundwave, what the slag is going on?"

"Observation: It appears we have hit some debris-" came the monotonous reply.

Megatron burst from his chair, going to the sonar display. "Debris?"

"Y-yes sir," came the reply from a suddenly nervous Breakdown. He was at navigation, having chosen it because it seemed like an easy job (they were just going down, right?), but now he wished to be anywhere else but at that station. "I'm trying to-"

Another loud bang, this time they could hear the scraping of metal from the top of the hull.

"We get banged up much more, we're going to lose ballast and never get out of here," said Motormaster, glaring at his Stunticon subordinate.

"Isn't the debris showing up on the sonar?" Megatron snapped, also glaring at Breakdown.

"Uh, yessir-"

"So, AVOID IT."

A whimper. "I-I'm trying but I just can't complete the equations fast enough-"

"Soundwave?"

"His processor capacity is not enough." Another clank.

"Surely yours is."

"I cannot monitor all functions and navigate as well, sir."

Megatron huffed his vents angrily. He was surrounded by idiots. Another bang, followed by an audio-splitting screech as the metal buckled under the weight of some debris.

He needed someone who had the processor ability to maneuver and fast speeds and recalculate based on insufficient data. Of course, only one name came to mind.

"Rumble, go wake Starscream."


"Mornin' sunshine," Rumble said as he tore the IV's out of Starscream's arm. The seeker winced and unshuttered his optics.

"And you're still the lowly errand boy. Maybe next time you upgrade you should consider an alarm-clock-alt."

Rumble wrinkled his faceplate. "And here I come to gently wake you up-"

"Gently?" Starscream scoffed. "You call that-"Starscream had begun, when he stopped. His optics grew wide and he looked very carefully at the room he was still in and noticed his internal chronometer was not nearly high enough for them to have reached their destination.

"We're still underwater," Starscream said as he swallowed. There was a loud bang, and Starscream fell out of his berth, right onto to Rumble, tangling with the Cassetticon on the floor.

"We need you to navigate." Rumble slowly extricated himself from the quiet seeker. "You alright, 'Screamer?" he said with a nervous laugh.

Starscream's optics were trained on the low ceiling. Even though he was sitting on the floor, he still felt the room's small space bearing down on him.

Rumble leaned down and put his faceplate in Starscream's field of vision. "Hey. Megatron is waiting."

Starscream said nothing as he rose. He jumped nervously at another bang that was far too close to their position in the ship. The metal groaned around them as the sub continued to descend, but Starscream was more worried about the loud scrapes and clangs he was hearing. Rumble considered taking some video of this scared-out-of-his-processor Starscream, but the seeker looked completely petrified that it was making even Rumble a tad nervous.

"So you've finally made it," Megatron said, slight relief under his harsh cut. "Maneuver us around this slag."

Breakdown got out of the way as Starscream growled irratibly. "Megatron, of all the mechs to ask-"

"You're a seeker. You do these kinds of complex equations in your sleep."

"Not under the stress of 20 miles of ice and water above my helm!" He stifled a shiver and began to rapidly punch in codes to the navigation.

"Right full rudder, 20°."

"Right full rudder, 20°, aye."

"All ahead full. Turn on my mark, 60 seconds." Starscream then clicked a button that started a timer.

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"According to the sensors, we'll clear this detritus material in less than an hour. I expect to be put back asleep at that time," the seeker said angrily.

Megatron said nothing.

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"Megatron? Did your thick helm block out my voice-"

"I heard you Starscream. I agree with you that your proposal makes sense." Starscream glared knowing that the gunformer was manipulating his words on purpose.

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The seeker turned back to the console, quickly drawing a path through the material that appeared on the screen. He scowled. "Decrease speed to 20% power." There was no way they would be able to take the next turn without slowing down.

"Decrease speed to 20%, aye-"

"Belay that," Megatron bellowed. "Maintain current speed."

Starscream grabbed hold of the console as he swayed a little on his pedes. He looked both scared out of his mind and as if he was going to rip Megatron's optics out. "Why aren't we slowing down?"

Megatron smiled. "We are being pursued by the Autobots so we can't afford any cowardice." Starscream sighed and shivered.

Soundwave turned his helm sharply to the seeker. Apparently, the red and white seeker could not control his usually cloaked mind, and Soundwave suddenly got a wealth of stray thoughts from the ailing SIC.

9

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"Turn on my mark," Starscream said, his wings tensing.

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1

"Mark. Left full rudder 60°, next turn in 10, 9, 8..."

As Starscream counted down, Megatron noticed that his TIC's keen interest in the seeker. He whispered to the telepath, "How is he doing?"

"Observation: Claustrophobia setting in. Panic imminent."

Megatron nodded. "Let's experiment, shall we?" The gunformer swore he saw the TIC cock his optic ridge, but that would be an emotional response.

"Increase speed to 30 knots and 75% power."

Starscream snapped his helm to look at Megatron, who only raised an inviting optic ridge in response. He waited patiently for a scathing comment, as did everyone else on the bridge, but none came. There was a loud groan of metal from the bulkheads settling under the pressure, and Starscream could not stifle his trembling.

"Recalculating run," Starscream ground out. "Next turn in 3, 2, 1. Mark, full right rudder."

The whole ship banked to the left as the right rudder of the sub tilted its maximum distance. A few mechs not seated flew to the left of the ship as they narrowly avoided a huge piece of whatever was making up this debris they were gliding through.

"This is like flying with a dead limb," Starscream observed, sitting down at a seat at the navigation console. He had hoped to not be there so long, so he had stood the whole time, but now his nerves threatened to take his pedes out from under him.

Finally, after many more turns, they reached the end of the run, clear of all debris. Soundwave announced to the crew that they could recommence active duties as they would arrive at the native's city in a little over three days. The crew cheered, and even Megatron cracked a smile. It had been touch and go there for awhile, and they had sustained some damage from Breakdown's control and were in desperate need of repair. Still, they pushed forward.

Starscream had visibly sagged when they reached the open water. With nothing to occupy his mind, he mental stability deteriorated quickly, and he began to shake uncontrollably. He quietly stood and backed against the wall so that he could see as much of the room as possible. The seeker tried to convince himself that the room was much bigger than it was, but the small space caused far too much heat to stay trapped in the cabin, and there was no denying that the room was more than stuffy. He winced every time his wings glanced off the wall behind him from the eddies of the currents, but otherwise he remained quiet.

Megatron watched him, fascinated. Apparently this was all it took to cow his wayward seeker. Too bad he couldn't stay this way: the Starscream he saw before him was docile, submissive, and scared out of his processor. This deserved a closer look.

Breakdown bumped into Starscream as he went back to navigation. He mumbled a half-hearted apology, but Starscream just went off the deep end.

He screeched and tacked the Stunticon. He was cycling his intakes heavily, "hyperventilating" in the truest sense of the word, and his optics were crazed and wide. The mechs around them were so surprised by the attack they froze. Some laughed nervously, but when the seeker jumped off of him and went of the ladder, they realized this was serious.

"Detain him!" Megatron yelled, coming Hook. The Constructicon scrambled from below deck, pulling out a syringe from subspace.

"I HAVE TO GET OUT!" Starscream cried as he tore at the mechs trying to apprehend him. Their proximity and crowding only made him panic even more.

"Starscream: there is no logic behind exiting that way. There is only water-"

The seeker didn't miss a beat. "I don't slagging care about logic, you blue baffoon! Let me OUT!" He threw himself at the ladder and tried to scramble up.

"He's gonna depressurize the whole ship!" yelled a snarling Motormaster. He and the other mechs around him quickly grabbed the seeker's pedes as Starscream had made it up three rungs. In his lapse of processor quality, the red and white seeker had forgotten that the mech-hole was a small, enclosed, dark tube that led up and out the sail at the top. He froze in terror, giving the necessary pause for the mechs to tear him from the ladder.

Hook appeared suddenly, and with no overture, stabbed the needle into the seeker's neck. "Fragging Primus. Who woke him up?"

"Fact: we needed his processing skills to navigate the debris."

Starscream slowly relaxed, but didn't go into recharge. His helm lolled and Hook tried to "comfort" him by patting him on the back. "Uhm... Come'on Screamer, go back to sleep..." Obviously, the mech had no idea what he was doing. He did know that only recharge or a slagging trine bond could get his processor defragged after all of this stress.

"Slag, I don't have enough sedative to put him out. Can we get him on a berth while I go get more?"

Megatron rolled his optics. "More trouble than their worth," he mumbled to no one in particular. He pointed to his quarters since they were the closest.

They dragged the sluggish seeker into Megatron's private room and poured him unceremoniously onto the larger berth. The seeker made incomprehensible threats at any one and every one, but his attempts at thrashing had become random, slow flails. Rumble patted him on the helm. "He's almost tame like this," he said, laughing.

Megatron's optics blazed for a moment. "Alright, back to your stations." They emptied out, laughing at the miserable state of the seeker.

He commed the medic, saying, "I'll deal with Starscream. Your services are not required."

Hook blanched as he slowly returned the sedative to a drawer below deck. He could only imagine what Megatron was planning to do with the incapacitated seeker. "Sir, that is inadvisable." He chose that statement wisely, hoping that all possible interactions with Starscream were covered. "Seekers are unstable naturally, and this far below the surface he might make some... unfortunate choices." Starscream already had it out for the tyrant, and Hook thought he'd better be safe than sorry by warning him if Megatron got between the Starscream and the door.

"Noted." He cut the comm, and looked at the weak seeker trying to get up and off the berth.

"I-I'm fine nowwwww," he slurred, trying to wave off the warlord, but obviously still under the effect of the sedative.

"Nonsense, Starscream. You took care of me in my illness with cosmic rust, I see this as me returning the favor." He approached the berth.

The drugged seeker whirred his vents in alarm. "No, no Megatron, service... is it's own... reward." He slumped into a hunched, seated position on the berth. His fans were over-taxed and even his energy field was unabashedly radiated stress.

Megatron leered over his second. It was not often that Starscream fell into such a compromising position. "Well then, let me comfort you out of the goodness of my spark." The gunformer climbed into the berth but didn't touch the seeker. Starscream stared at him warily through his haze of fear and exhaustion.

Megatron just smiled, taking out a datapad from subspace.

He made no move, which scared the seeker even more than if he had started to attack him. He ignored Starscream almost completely. The seeker fought to remain upright and to remain conscious, but was quickly failing at both. He gasped as his spark continued to throb in his chassis, feeling as if it were going to burst out of its chamber. He couldn't calm it, which made him panic even more. It was a cycle that just continued to escalate.

He turned toward the door and whimpered, seeing its closed state like a nail in his coffin. "Megatron..." he pleaded.

"Yes, my obedient Air Commander."

Starscream turned around on the berth to face him, swaying a little. "Please, please let me go back to sleep with my trinemates. I'm begging you."

Megatron simply grinned and went back to his datapad. "We might need you to navigate through more debris."

The red seeker slowly put his helm down on the berth, taking on a bowing position. "P-please, Lord..."

"Starscream, I've made my decision." He lightly placed a servo on his second's helm. Starscream tensed under the contact, which eventually led him to shiver. "Just relax."

"You don't understand," Starscream said, tilting his helm so he could make optic-contact with the gunformer. "I can't just... relax."

Megatron put the datapad down, leaning over. "Then explain it to me. I'm a Decepticon gunformer, so I'm used to small spaces. I can't even fathom why it upsets you seekers so. It's just so... irrational."

Starscream gasped when he heard the groan of the ship as it descended even farther down in Europa's hidden ocean. "It's not irrational. The most sensitive piece of seeker anatomy is our wings. They are instruments used to detect air currents and change in barometric pressure in the air. Seekers are used to sorting through tons of information, not just from their wings, but from their optics, their audios, everything. We are used to a lot of space in the air, giving our processors plenty of space to breathe." The seeker huffed his vents before continuing.

"There are about 3 miles or 15,840 ft of water above us, so take that multiplied by 0.43 psi per foot for Sea water which is about 6,858.7 psi of pressure exerted on us right now." Megatron smiled as Starscream prattled off these numbers: truly the scientist to the last.

"And all of that weight is crushing down on us. And every time I hear the groan of the hull, I fell the same thing echoing through my wings." He shuttered his optics shifting his weight so he was now laying down on the berth, his faceplates against the smooth cool metal.

"So you fear the pain of your wings being crushed?" He said, trailing his servo to lightly inspect said instruments of flying.

Starscream hissed, twitching his wings away from the touch. "It's not just that," he said quietly. "If my wings are crushed, there goes my keys to the sky. Without the sky, I cannot function at optimal speeds, and my processor will lag over time."

Megatron returned his servo to Starscream's helm, absentmindedly petting it. "Is this fear then a defense mechanism?"

"Perhaps... but it doesn't matter. The only way to stave it is by recharge."

Megatron stopped petting the helm. "So why can't you recharge here?"

Starscream shifted uncomfortably. "Megatron, please just let me go-"

"I see no reason for you to leave. Silence, little seeker, and try to calm yourself."

Starscream whimpered again, this time feeling a sob catch in the back of his throat. This was just too slagging much: he was in a small, tiny space with the mech that he hated the most and trusted the least. Meanwhile his trine and fellow seekers got to sleep blissfully beneath him on the lower decks. He clenched his servos into fists. He was too exhausted to do anything with the sedative still working and his constant trembling had worn him out.

He felt cleaning fluid well in his optics, but he shuttered his optics in shame to avoid it. That was the last thing he needed to give to Megatron: the satisfaction of his tears. But his wings itched horribly and his processor gave him a huge helmache.

Megatron resumed petting his helm, and after a few minutes of silent crying, Starscream found that he was being soothed by the touch of his Commander. It was constant and surprisingly gentle, and he suddenly found himself falling into recharge. He dared not fight it despite his lack of trust of the Decepticon leader beside him, as this could be his only chance to escape the small space for blessed unconscious bliss.

So he fell into recharge, and Megatron smiled wickedly, pleased at his Air Commander's current state. He settled in next to the seeker, taking time to fully admire his stunning young second as he never was this close to observe him without trying to kill him. Eventually, he too fell into a light recharge, smiling that he might actually get his wish of an obedient Starscream yet.

Chapter Text

Starscream slowly unshuttered his optics, dimly taking in his surroundings. That was when he noticed he was hugging something.

"So the sleeping prince awakens." The reverberations from the voice traveled down into Starscream's arms, and he noticed said arms were wrapped around the waist of the mech who spoke. Starscream was still horizontal on the bed, but the other was sitting upright, apparently looking at a datapad while the seeker was draped across him like some kind of blanket. He pulled back enough to get a full view.

"Primus," he whispered in shock. He quickly tried to unlace himself, but Megatron had grabbed his arms to hold them in place. Starscream scowled, glaring up at the gunformer.

"Imagine my surprise to wake to find you in this position... and of your own volition." He slowly released Starscream's arms, and Starscream didn't pull back but did huff his vents in a sigh.

"Your surprise and obvious enjoyment." He looked around the room quickly, seeing if there was anything he could use as a weapon, but he saw nothing. That was when he saw how small the room was.

Oh slag.

His optics froze, staring at the ceiling. A rush of panic, fear, and absolute horror rushed through his processor, clouding any type of annoyance he had just had with his leader.

He instinctively tightened his grip on the tyrant, who tensed a little at the sensation. Upon realizing what he was doing, Starscream again attempted to pull back, extremely conflicted for need of comforting, but wanting it from anything, anything other than Megatron.

This time the tyrant wrapped an arm around him, keeping him secure in his place. "You feel the claustrophobia setting back in," he observed. Starscream threw all of his distrust away for the moment as he buried his faceplate into the tyrant's waist.

"I-I... can barely form a coherent thought."

"Mm, well there was one. See? You're not as bad off as you think."

"Megatron, please. Even if we did find more debris, there would be no way I could maneuver around it in this state."

"Oh, but you sell yourself short. I'm sure you could do it, if in fact we need you."

Starscream groaned.

"Does being in such... close contact actually help?" He asked, still curious.

Starscream turned his helm. "A... uh little. Your... plating is cool to the touch...and..."

"It mimics the feel of cooler wind on you."

Starscream chose not to answer in a mixture of embarrassment and stupefied terror. His wings drooped a little, not liking how he needed this kind of proximity. He hated this since he refused to rely on anyone, even his trinemates. Yet here he was like some frightened sparkling, shivering in his Commander's arms.

This was humiliating.

"I wonder if you would be placated by any mech offering you comfort..."

Starscream groaned again. "Oh Primus, Megatron, please don't experiment." His voice had little of his typical acid and it was instead colored by his fear and growing exhaustion. Megatron stroked the side of his second's shoulder vent in assurance.

"Why do you keep doing that?" he hissed. The proximity to the tyrant was enough, but the stroking only hinted that Megatron was enjoying this far too much.

"Does it not help?" he asked, grinning wildly. Starscream didn't move or answer, and Megatron replied, "Thought so."

The hull made a loud clicking groan, and Starscream whimpered into his Commander's plating. Megatron smirked, but then his optics dimmed from receiving a message. Soundwave explained that Prime was closing in and was madly trying to contact them. He sighed. His little conditioning session would have to wait.

He looked down to see Starscream staring at him with pathetic, red optics. "Megatron, please. This is torture."

"Should I leave you then?" Megatron chuckled when the seeker gripped him even harder. "No, but I will help you a little." His optics dimmed as he called for Soundwave to retrieve something and come to his quarters.

Starscream stared at the door as it opened and the Communication's Officer strode into the room. When the door closed behind him, the tape deck seemed to go rigid once he saw the scene before him.

"This is exactly what it looks like," Megatron said, smiling. Starscream grunted in annoyance as he pulled away from Megatron. It took a lot of strength for him to stop making contact with the plating that was within his reach, but he wanted at least some of his pride intact in front of the TIC.

Soudwave regarded the pair: the grinning gunformer and the scowling seeker both sitting on the berth. Starscream looked a little haggard and he could glean some of his stray thoughts, understanding what their Commander had been doing these past cycles.

"Did you bring the sedative?"

"Affirmative, Lord Megatron."

They both noticed as the seeker became a little more animated. He wasn't sure the sedative was completely a good thing, but it might be preceding his return to the stasis chamber where his trinemates slept. Gaining confidence by the thought, he added, "Finally tired of me, Megatron?"

"Ha, hardly," he replied. He nodded to the seeker, indicating to the telepath it was time. Starscream stiffened and backed against the wall, seeing the interaction between the two as nothing good. Soundwave pulled out a syringe from subspace and walked towards the shaking jet.

"Are you putting me back?" came the meek question, as he allowed himself to be grabbed by the tape deck. Soundwave roughly grasped the seeker's neck and tilted it so he had access to the main energon line that ran through there.

"We'll see..." rumbled the reply from the gunformer, and Starscream slowly fell into recharge, leaning forward onto Soundwave's shoulder. Soundwave pulled back while holding the seeker, getting off of the berth and looking to his Commander for his next set of orders.

"You are to stay with him while I go deal with Prime." He grabbed a polishing cloth and rubbed down his faceplate. When there was no "affirmative" reply, he glanced at the tape deck beside him.

He was looking at Starscream with what could be interpreted as thinly veiled disgust.

"You don't like him very much..." Megatron observed, giving his TIC a hard stare.

"Personal preference: irrelevant. I will obey."

"Excellent. All you have to do is sit there on the berth and he will do the rest."

A flash of the visor. Megatron had come to interpret that as a what?

"Part of the reason we've never had control over this one was that we had nothing to offer him. He wants power that he cannot have. But now he is rather... shall we say, compromised? He requires more. Slowly, I've noticed he is craving comfort. We are going to condition him to crave our touch and comfort so that we can threaten to withhold it if he doesn't behave."

Soundwave did not look amused. "Observation: conditioning will no longer work outside of submarine."

"On the contrary, I think it will. But first we need to see if your frame will have the same effect as mine does." He turned around and left his quarters, leaving a passed out Air Commander and a less than enthused Communication's officer to get "comfy."

As soon as Megatron exited the door, Soundwave huffed his vents. He was worth so much more to the warlord, but here he was, seeker-sitting.

And it had to be that seeker. Soundwave was not a huge fan of the red and white mech who was the antithesis of himself: loud where he was quiet, octave-jumping where he was monotonous, back-stabbing where he was unwaveringly loyal- the list could go on. But Megatron had given him a direct order, and despite his disapproval, he was loath to disappoint.

He got into the berth, watching the recharging mech warily. He's heard stories of seekers being trapped in cave-ins, but when they were finally rescued they had killed and maimed the other mechs trapped with them before killing themselves. Surely Megatron knew what danger this seeker posed?

The tape deck leaned against the wall. It felt a little strange to be seated on Megatron's berth despite his express command to occupy it. Still, it felt like somewhat forbidden territory. He tried to relax but his thoughts kept drifting to the ticking time bomb asleep beside him. Doubtless his sleep would have been fitful had his recharge not been drug-induced; as it was, a rock wouldn't have been more still. And all Soundwave could think about was how this winged-mech could not be worth it.

Almost as if sensing the thoughts about him, Starscream shifted in his sprawl. Even though he was still asleep, faceplate down on the berth, his right servo seemed to sense the close frame and explored the berth for it. When it made contact with Soundwave's leg, it sent a ripple down Starscream's frame, and the telepath could not decipher whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. The servo gently applied pressure in a grip. Then the seeker shifted so that his whole frame would be right up against the rigid tape deck.

Soundwave didn't like where this was going. He was about to pull away, but he knew what Megatron had wanted when he had given him the order, so he knew this was part of it. So he huffed his vents in annoyance, and folded his arms across his chassis. When the still-asleep-Starscream wrapped his arms around the surprised tape deck, his servos flew from his chest and he froze.

The seeker nuzzled his chest, and suddenly, the telepath decided this was not so bad.

Even in recharge, the seeker was still radiating stress and Soundwave found Starscream's thoughts to be centered around the small area of the room. But when Starscream had started to inch his way closer to the TIC, and then had finally made physical contact, his thoughts became warm, affectionate even.

Soudwave had never realized the bristling Air Commander was capable of such beautiful thoughts.

He relaxed his arms as the sleeping seeker wound himself around Soundwave, laying on top of him and latching his arms around the telepath's neck. He rested his helm against Soundwave's upright chest and recharged quietly in the bigger mech's arms.

Soundwave thought in the back of his processor that this must be some programming form of comforting that seekers practiced. He'd never seen seeker's recharging near one another, but now he desperately wanted to check the security feeds back at the base. Were they always this... sweet in sleep?

He doubted it. As far as he knew, Starscream slept alone and did not seem outwardly affectionate, even towards his trine. So this must be something deeper, more engrained.

He noticed Starscream's vents cycled slower, indicating he was in fact relaxing in his hold. It was amazing to be wanted, for sure.

But it was a whole different thing to be needed.


Starscream again woke up, slower this time in relation to the amount of sedative still overpowering him. His limbs felt heavy and he was still very sleepy, but he tried to rouse himself, knowing distantly he was not in a good position right now.

He did know he was comfortable, which was one thing. He felt soothed and safe, which he thought was odd because he was a Decepticon, doubtless near other Decepticons. Those previous things were not often given. So slowly, his curious mind got the better of him and he leaned back to see the red visor watching him intently.

The seeker didn't react right away.

But then the tape deck heard one creeping through burn through the fog of Starscream's mind.

Soundwave.

The seeker in his arms tensed slowly as his wings tilted back in alarm. The telepath's hold slackened, indicating wordlessly that he would let the seeker go if he so wished. Starscream slid off of Soundwave, not speaking his alarm and embarrassment. The tape deck was disappointed but allowed the seeker to separate if he so chose.

The jet felt his processor all tangled and jumbled, and he tried to push through to start making sense of what was happening.  He had been wrapped around Soundwave.  Soundwave!  This can’t be happening, it must be some kind of trick.

Starscream tried to rise into a seated position, but stopped about halfway upright as his helm was wracked with a splitting helmache. He hunched over, using his servo to cradle his throbbing helm. "Slag, why does my helm hurt so much?"

"Observation: Perhaps a reaction to high levels of sedative."

"Sedative?" Starscream repeated, throwing a distrustful look at the TIC. "Why was I sedated-" he started indignantly. But he stopped himself as his optics grew wide and he finally observed his surroundings.

"Observation: Sedative has amnesic side-effects."

The wide-opticked mech trained his gaze on the low ceiling. Then he noted the close walls. Then he curled into a ball, wrapping his arms around his knees. He buried his faceplate in his knees, trying to hide from the small space.  Everything came rushing back in a moment, the bridge, Megatron’s sadistic smile, waking up yet again without control of his faculties in the arms of yet a another mech he hated.  A few loud echoey bangs from the metal hull settling made him gasp.

He felt the fear prickle his energy field, and it attacked his wings making them tremble. This isn't slagging fair, he thought again. He was okay a second ago but now he felt all of his systems hurt. It was if he was already being crushed to death, and he desperately tried to turn his mind away from it, but it just wasn't possible.

Soundwave watched the seeker in mute curiosity as he puzzled through his thoughts. Then the seeker winced even more as he realized the sub was deeper than it had been previously and that, of course, only made things worse.

Suddenly the seeker's head shot up and his optics locked with the telepaths. "Soundwave, I order you to put me back with the other seekers." He looked so slagging hopeful, it seemed a shame to disappoint him.

"Negative: Megatron's orders outrank yours."

Starscream became very pleading, pulling out from his ball and putting his legs beneath him and his servos on the berth. "Soundwave. I'll do anything- anything to be taken out of this room and to be put back into stasis." His voice had become softer with only a touch of the torrent of desperation lingering under the surface.

Soundwave would have graced the seeker with a smile at the tactic if he didn't keep his facemask intact. "Query: Anything?"

Starscream looked at the tape-deck-alt carefully, weighing his options.  Was his pride completely gone?  Maybe not.  But a lot of things could happen on the way to interfacing.  Starscream imperceptibly arched his back and let his precious wings tremble with anticipation.  “Anything,” he repeated.

He leaned in to touch the TIC's arms encouragingly. "I'm sending all kinds of images your way..." he replied. He gently moved on top of Soundwave, watching for any sign that he was going to be attacked.  As he didn’t see any, he straddled the telepath carefully, begging with his optics to indulge him. He leaned down to stroke the tape deck's shoulder's seductively, giving a tight squeeze between his thighs for added emphasis.

Soundwave's intakes hitched at being assaulted in mind and on his frame, but his energy field betrayed that he was actually entertaining the idea. He roughly grabbed Starscream's servos and the seeker yelped a little. Still the seeker saw this as a positive sign and sent pleading invitations through his field to the tape deck.

"Answer: Your request has been denied."

Starscream's mouth gaped in rage as he flailed angrily in the tape deck's grip. He tried to stand to get better leverage, but Soundwave just would roll him off his pedes every time. "You smelted piece of slag, let me go!" He cried, pulling harshly on his servos to get free. Soundwave's visor just glinted, hinting that he was enjoying their little squabble. That enraged the captured seeker even more and he tried to swipe at Soundwave's faceplate.

But when the hull groaned loudly, it seemed as if Starscream's very will melted out of him. He froze in Soundwave's grip and looked to the low ceiling as if it were leaking water at that moment. There were various other noises from the sub that only indicating they were rapidly descending down into the black open water all around them.

They sat there for more than a few moments, Starscream’s servos pinned above him while huffing his vents, and Soundwave also cycling his vents at the effort to contain his fellow officer.

The seeker lowered his helm, slowly, dejectedly. He was just so fragging scared. He couldn't do anything else but fear that something would go wrong and they would all be crushed to death. Even the thought of Soundwave and Megatron being crushed as well did not cheer him.

He felt Soundwave wordlessly bring his servo down to caress the side of his helm.  The seeker tensed at the touch but didn’t move. 

Soundwave watched the transformation of the seeker with thinly veiled curiosity. Starscream was defeated, and to Soundwave and other mechs that when they transformed folded in on themselves, using small spaces to defeat the mech didn't seem like much. But Soundwave was now intimately aware of Starscream's mind now that he had access to it, and he knew that the claustrophobia was no small thing to him, but a raging process of subroutines that flooded his systems. The mech couldn't turn off the abject terror that raced through his lines. The seeker had been defeated by his own programming.

This deserved a closer look.

He pulled the seeker in close, and Starscream looked both revolted, scared, and hopeful in the same moment.  A dangerous ball of contradictions this one.  Soundwave moved his servo across the plating of his technically superior officer, delighting in the tensing the other mech made.  Soundwave had always wanted to do this, to explore the seeker in this way, but he never had the ability.  He felt the jet-alt half-heartedly attempt to get out of his grip, but Soundwave held firm.

“Are you quite done groping me,” Starscream said irritably.

A loud thunderous settlement of the metal hull made his wild-optics move to the ceiling and the mech just fell apart.

Starscream began to cry. It was pathetic, and also very, very strange. Starscream never cried, but neither did most of the Decepticons. He was a loud-mouthed, arrogant son of a glitch who whined enough for everyone, but tears? From him? This was...

Marvelous.

And it was then that Soundwave understood why Megatron wanted to condition him and tame him to their touch. Then they could elicit these delicious tears anytime they wanted. He found it fascinating that beating him didn't do this... and Megatron had certainly tried... but get the seeker trapped awake in a descending submarine? Perfect.

He slowly pulled Starscream down to lay on him in a similar position to when the seeker had woken up. Starscream complied, cleaning fluid leaking out of his optics. Soundwave wrapped Starscream's arms around his neck and Starscream positioned his helm in the crook of the telepath's shoulder between his cannon and helm. There, the shivering seeker buried his wet faceplate in Soundwave's plating, squeezing the mech in a desperate embrace.

"Starscream:... your thoughts... are intoxicating."

The seeker sagged a little more, another part of his pride defeated. He needed to touch this mech, and he couldn't wrap himself around him tight enough. It hurt his pride to know that both Soundwave and Megatron enjoyed his desperate need of contact so much, but there wasn't anything he could slagging do about it. He was trapped in their embrace because he needed it to feel sane.

"I slagging hate both of you," he sobbed.

Soundwave huffed his vents in a laugh.

 

Chapter Text

Megatron came in, pleased with what he saw. His second was quietly laying in the lap of his rather contented third. "Excellent work, Soundwave," he said, striding into the room.

"Reply: Thank you for sharing."

Starscream huffed his vents at the exchange. He was still indignant about the whole situation and he desperately thought of a way to possibly aid his escape. His mind was a little clearer and bolstered by the mech holding him, so he decided to try his luck. "And I thank you too, Megatron. He was so much better at comforting me than you," he said.

It achieved a little tensing on the warlord's part, but then he relaxed. "I can tell you are content. Your treacherous ways are resurfacing." He looked to Soundwave who still held his second in his arms.

"What is the most insulated, isolated room on this ship?"

"Answer: The aft sonar room."

"Perfect. Starscream, we are going for a little trip."

"No, no, no- please wait! Oh Primus-" he said as his wings started to shiver uncontrollably. "Ah, slaggit... no... please-"

Megatron leaned down to Starscream's audios. "If you're a good little seeker, we'll come get you and comfort you. But this treacherous slag has got to stop."

"Megatron, please!" he cried as Soundwave lifted him off the berth to take him to said room. "No! Oh Primus, please don't put me in there alone!"

A few mechs heard the cries of their begging Air Commander as the door to Megatron's quarters opened. They had pretty much forgotten that Starscream was still in there, and they all wondered idly what exactly had been going on. They had thought that Starscream had been taken down to rejoin the others by now. On second thought, they chose not to think about it. But they all noticed that the pleading they heard was different than the normal, run-of-the-mill begging their second-in-command often gave. More dire.

Soundwave and Megatron dragged him down the narrow corridor, but the seeker wasn't making it easy. He thrashed violently and cursed them as only he knew how. He begged, pleaded, cursed and spat, trying to use everything in his arsenal.

Primus. Duh. He leveled his null-ray at Megatron but nothing happened.

"Uh-oh, Starscream. That earned you another hour."

Starscream's optics burst wide and he apologized profusely. "Please, Lord, I'll never... just... don't..." His vocalizer was hoarse and he coughed a little to try and clear it.

“If I had an energon cube for every time I heard you say that,” the tyrant ground out after a well-placed kick hand glanced off his chassis.

Starscream twisted in their grip, attempting to look up at the tape-deck.  “Soundwave, please don’t let him do this to me,” he grasped on to the TIC for dearest life.

“Starscream: Appeals are wasted.”

That triggered a new depth to Starscream’s hatred and he managed to reach up and claw at Soundwave’s shoulder with such force that the tape-deck dropped Starscream.  The seeker had the forethought to turn as he fell, making sure to land on his servos which not only braced the fall, but allowed him to acrobatically kick Megatron and Soundwave at the same time and flip out of the way.  Surprised and dazed, the other two mechs didn’t have a chance to catch Starscream as he ran down the corridor.

“And here I thought we were making progress,” Megatron ground out.  “Go after him before he damages the ship,” he barked to his third.

“Eject: Ravage.  Detain Starscream.”

Ravage sprung out of Soundwave and into action, the thrill of a hunt giving a certain spring to the cassette’s step. 

Starscream heard the cassette on his heels and knew instantly that this was over before it started.  There was nowhere to hide on this ship.  He could not escape the cassette and he couldn’t escape the two mechs who wanted to make his life a living Pit

He stopped and snarled, choosing to attack Ravage head-on.  With surprise, the panther cassette avoided the seeker’s initial charge, but was thrown off balance.  As she jumped over top of Starscream she threw her claws down the back of the seeker, managing to scratch one of his wings, deeper than she had meant to.  He gave a strangled cry as he fell, and Ravage winced for him too- she knew better than to harm a seeker’s wings, but it had been an accident.  His optics were half-lidded with pain as he flipped on his back to protect his wings and stop the panther’s onslaught. 

She regarded him, coolly.  This was not the first time she had been tasked with attacking Starscream, but something about this felt off.  She growled low and stamped a paw in warning, hissing.

Starscream held up his servos in front of him, and then closed his optics, trembling.  He felt the warm sensation of energon trailing down his back, tickling and itching as it dripped onto the floor.

He took a moment to think.  The pain in his wings had helped distract him from his claustrophobia for a minute, as did the change in scenery.  Being out of that tiny room, even just for a similarly small hallway had already felt like it did wonders for his processor. But the galvanizing pain in his wing stung horribly.

He wasn’t doing this right.  Megatron and Soundwave were delighting too much in this experiment they were doing, and Starscream was not in a position to put up much of a fight.  Back on the Nemesis, most mechs usually just left him alone because messing with him was too much trouble.  Starscream might have been a little shorter than the other mechs, but he made up for it in his arsenal and ability to hold a grudge.

He just had to remind them that trying to turn him into a pet was more trouble than it was worth.

Megatron rounded the hallway first and saw Starscream on the ground, favoring his damaged wing.  The gunformer growled angrily but had felt some of his initial anger for the seeker abate, which just made him frustrated.  And now they were going to hear him whine about his wings all the time.

But to his surprise, Starscream remained silent.  It was unnerving.

“You should not have done that,” Megatron said lowly.

“I just don’t understand what you want from me,” Starscream said, quietly.  “I have already told you I will do anything you want.”

Megatron’s optics narrowed. “You say a lot of things,” he began, lifting his chin in disgust. “All I want from you is you to be loyal and obey my commands without any ulterior motives.  You know, the same thing I ask from every soldier.”  He went to Ravage who pinned her ears back, not sure where this was going.  She desperately looked for Soundwave to come around the bend and reassure her, but he had not arrived yet.  Megatron reached out a servo and pet her helm.  She winced a little at first but accepted the rough head-pets.

Starscream glared and then looked away without reply.  Clearly some of the time, Starscream gave him absolute loyalty and genuine praise for being such a magnificent commander.  But other times, Megatron’s idiocy and myopathy blinded him from achieving true greatness.  And Starscream was there to point it out and of course substitute in if the need arose.

Starscream looked like he was about to say something else when Soundwave rounded the corner. 

“Alert: More debris detected ahead.  Will require a seeker’s processor to navigate.”

Megatron grunted as he reached out an unkind servo and pulled the seeker up by his shoulder.


Breakdown looked like he was fulfilling his namesake.  He looked petrified out of his processor.

“There is just… so much…” he whispered, the smoke practically coming out of his CPU.  He punched in possible routes into the computer systems, but every possible scenario resulted in catastrophic damage to the submarine.

“Figure it out, or it will be our afts on the line,” Motormaster ground out by his audios, his faceplate underlit by the lights on the screen.  He stood behind with a servo on Breakdown’s shoulder and squeezed.  “We can’t be showed up by that screecher again.”

Another chime alert came from the computer.  That scenario resulted in the ship blowing multiple pieces and most sections vaporizing.  Breakdown’s frame trembled as he rapidly began typing away again.  “Motormaster… there just isn’t a way…” he said, panicking.

“How much time do we have until impact?” came Megatron’s voice.  The Decepticons all turned to salute and all felt a chill go down their backs as they saw Megatron frog-marching their air commander in front of him.  He looked like someone had put him through an energon processor.

“Uh-“ Breakdown began, but froze when his most recent scenario chimed that again, there was no way they were going to live through this one.

Motormaster cleared his vocalizer.  “Looks like in about three kliks,” he said.

Megatron ground his denta in frustration.  He roughly pushed Starscream towards navigation.  “Do your duty,” the gunformer said with ire.

The seeker grimaced but walked over to the navigation chair as Breakdown vacated.  “I’ve tried about 50 different paths,” the Stunticon said quietly.  “I… tried.”

Starscream flicked his optics at the Decepticon with some worry.  Stress was already stitched into every part of the SIC’s frame but the statement made him start typing away furiously. 

Megatron watched and looked to Soundwave.  He indicated the seeker with a jut of his chin.  Soundwave’s visor flashed but he said nothing, walking over to Starscream and resting a gentle servo on his shoulder.  Starscream tensed at the contact but his wings seemed to stop their trembling.  A few of the mechs in the room gave each other confused looks at this display, but wisely said nothing.

The seeker felt all eyes on him, but he was able to ignore it for a moment.  He was used to being the center of attention- it was his right.  But quickly he realized that this situation was quite dire.  “How far away are the Autobots?” he asked to no one in particular.

Dead End replied, “They are about 5 kliks behind us,” said morosely.  Motormaster glared but said nothing.

Starscream typed away, pulling out a wire for him to tap directly into the computer with his CPU.  Soundwave wordlessly assisted, gently plugging it in on the side of Starscream’s helm.

After a few tense kliks, the screen of the computer showed green with a 50.23% chance of success.  He turned to look at Soundwave who was reading over the scenario line by line to see if he could find deceit.

“Starscream: this is insane.”

Starscream couldn’t help but smirk, “Insane yes, but it will work.  We have no time to argue,” he said starting to issue orders.

“Motormaster, increase speed by 40%, flood forward and aft tubes, plot firing solution to these coordinates,” he said typing, his optics blazing.

The Stunticon warily looked to Megatron.  Megatron just glared at Soundwave, waiting for him to object.  The tape-deck was just rapidly reading the print-out of the scenario, but it was obvious he was tense.  “Proceed,” Megatron said finally.

“Increase speed by 40%, flood forward and aft tubes, plotting fire solution, aye,” Motormaster repeated.

“Starscream: the timing-” Soundwave whispered to the SIC. 

“The timing will be perfect.”

“Query: But why did you ask where the Autobots were-“

“Fire front torpedos,” Starscream said.

“Firing front torpedoes, aye,” Motormaster said, pushing the button.

“Now, ease up on the throttle and turn two degrees starboard.”

Motormaster froze, “But we are going to fast, we will-“

“DO AS I SAY!” Starscream shrieked.

“Aye, turning 2 degrees… starboard,”

As Motormaster input the course change, Soundwave quietly reached up and held on to some exposed piping giving a significant look to Megatron.  Megatron sighed and turned on the magnets in his throne to prevent himself from falling out.

When the submarine began to turn, their rapid descent caused the entire submarine to start spinning.  More than one mech was thrown roughly against the wall.  They could hear clanging and generous cries throughout the ship as anything not nailed-down was thrown to the outside of the room.  The firing of the torpedo had created a small opening in the debris before denotating too far away from them to get to, but the target hole was not a straight shot, as the debris had kept moving.  They had to get around it like a pole-vaulter twists their body around the pole.

Starscream was able to slow their spin by ordering they fire the aft torpedo.  The hull twisted slightly, torqueing around an initial wall of debris, but was able to do so as if it had been made for this purpose.

Megatron watched carefully and noticed how manic his second had become.

“This next set of movements will need to have complete accuracy,” Starscream said, flicking his optics over the various monitors, optics still burning with a fiery intensity.  “I will need complete engine control.”  Soundwave stiffened his grip on his shoulder. 

“Request: ludicrous,” he replied.  “The controls are split for a reason.  Your CPU cannot handle it…”

“DO you want to DIE?” the seeker shrieked as he gave out more commands for an intricate set of movements to the others.  They began to move through them, but they were starting to get hit by small amounts of debris.  The scrapes on the hull were louder as the ship shook from tiny impacts.

“Do as he says,” Megatron said.  “You can input your commands for 15 seconds,” he said.

“That’s barely enough time- but fine,” he said.  Motormaster passed engine control to Starscream and they all waited.

The ship grew eerily quiet.  Starscream’s optics had changed from their normal crimson to a light purple as he issued a string of commands to the computer.  The entire ship dimmed slightly and only Starscream's computer increased in brightness, underlighting his faceplates in an eerie, violet light. They felt the tiny, almost imperceptible movements of the ship as it glided through the water, turning and avoiding most debris.  The loud banging they had heard a moment ago had decreased to almost nothing and they "flew" through the deep water with ease.

With a gasp, Starscream forcefully unplugged himself from the computer and held his helm in his hands.  It turned out fifteen seconds was about all he could take.  As he held his faceplate in his servos he indulged a tiny smirk.

Megatron was impressed, but also wary.  It might have been paranoia, or the experience of a few million years that he doubted they were out of danger yet.

Suddenly they received a hail from the Autobots.

“Megatron… that was quite generous of you,” said Optimus.

Megatron could barely keep the confusion off his faceplate.   “What are you blabbering on about Prime?”

“Our computers showed there was no way through the debris.  I’m astounded you didn’t get pummeled, but those torpedoes gave us a straight shot,” he replied.

All optics trained on the seeker, who merely started to laugh.

Megatron composed himself.  “But of course, Prime.  We wanted to have this be a fair fight,” he said, cutting the communication.

Soundwave felt his very insides freeze as he zoomed out of the debris field on the display.  Starscream had made it easy for the Autobots to get around it, while they had to go through this elaborate path to get around the debris.  The Autobots now had a chance to gain on them.

“The aft-sonar room.  Now.”

Starscream laugh was cut short as they dragged him from the room.  “It was the only way!” he cried.  He snarled and tried to attack the two mechs as they roughly carried him.

“Really?” Megatron said angrily.  “The only way to get around the debris was to help the fragging Autobots?  Why in Primus don’t I believe you?”

“We were going too fast, the firing of the torpedoes was the only way to get the right spin.  I was hoping they were closer so that that I could have hit them too, but that wasn’t the case- agh,” he said as Soundwave grasped down too hard on Starscream’s already hurt back.

“Query: Why did both torpedoes hit the same area then, giving the Autobots a straight shot,” he said with a glint of his visor.

“…ah well, maybe I’m too much trouble than I’m worth,” Starscream said starting to struggle more intently.

They threw him into the room and locked the door. The gunformer and tape deck leaned against the door to catch their breath; it was a lot to try and get that seeker in there. They could distantly hear his indigent yelling, but Soundwave was right, it was well insulated.

"How long do you think?"

"Answer: In thirty minutes his mind will break."

"So what, do you think before or after?"

"Observation: Your desire is to tame, not drive insane." Megatron chuckled and nodded.

The yelling had started to turn a little; it was more pleading and growing more panicked by the second.  Then it was full on keening laced with desperation.  He was banging loudly on the door and they could hear scraping as he might have been clawing at the door.  They wondered what he was saying, but it was just a distant noise growing more and more pathetic as time went on.

Suddenly the banging stopped. Megatron looked to his TIC with confusion, and Soundwave was quite taken aback as well. The seeker couldn't have lost it already, could he? Then Soundwave's visor flashed, and he disengaged the lock to find the seeker sputtering on the floor. They both stared in shock as Starscream convulsed on his back.

"Observation: Seizure. Permission to end discipline early?"

Megatron nodded, concerned. He had wanted to just mess with the ball of wings, not... break him. This time. "He had a seizure from the room?"

Soundwave had bent down and consoled the seeker by wrapping his arms around he shaking mech. The seizure stopped almost immediately, and he scrambled to get into Soundwave's arms. The tape deck complied, coddling the SIC like some kind of sparkling. Starscream created soft static and twitched a little in the embrace but allowed himself to be picked up and carried out of the room and back to Megatron’s quarters.

"Inference: Seizure was from lack of defrag and controlling the ship through CPU. Observation: attempting this again in his state… not recommended."

Megatron agreed. The seeker was leaning into Soundwave with none of his previous conflicted looks on his faceplate. Soundwave had insinuated that if they attempted this again, the seeker might not survive, and that was disconcerting to the tyrant.

Frag, he almost felt guilty now. And that was a foreign emotion if he ever had one. The truth was that even after Starscream had told him why seeker's hated small spaces, Megatron still couldn't fathom it. Again, as a gunformer? He relished small spaces. He could tuck himself into subspace for crying out loud. That was smaller than space. So surely this seeker was just overreacting to the small space? It was all in his head, right?

It was unspoken between the TIC and Commander that they had made a miscalculation. Soundwave had accurately read Starscream's mind and predicted his capacity for isolation, but he had failed to account of the amount of cached information that Starscream hadn't purged. Usually transformers defragged during recharge, so Soundwave had discounted it as he was witness to Starscream's sleep. But Starscream obviously was not defragging. It was as if a string had gotten caught in a fan and was slowly winding itself around the center, leading eventually to the fan stopping completely.

Starscream cuddled against the telepath on the berth, his optics very distant. Megatron also took a seat on the berth, looking to his second with searching optics. Had they gone too far already?

The seeker reached out a servo and grabbed Megatron's pulling it to his chassis for added comfort. Laced with static, he addressed his Commander, "I promise I'll do whatever...you want. Just please don't. Do. That. Again."

Megatron was very surprised by the genuine sincerity of Starscream. He splayed out his servo in a possessive gesture, deciding to answer, "Don't give me a reason to."

With that, he got up and walked out to the command center, ignoring the questioning looks of from everyone else on the bridge.

Chapter Text

Rumble was bored. And being bored in a submarine with a bunch of crowded mechs meant that he had to be very careful about what he said or did, because it seemed that anything could set them off. There had already been four fights in the mess hall, that was hardly a hall but a closet, and the mechs were all radiating annoyance. In the mess hall they sat back to back at nearby tables, and in hallways only one mech could fit at a time. The Decepticons were used to their underwater base being much larger, and to be fair, it had taken them almost an Earth week to get this annoyed. But the worst part? They still had a return trip.

It wasn't the small space that bothered them, but the close proximity. Megatron had no idea how many natives they would find, so he had crammed most of the army into the ship, even the blasted seekers. As as a result, a mech could barely walk without running into another mech or the wall of the submarine. Mechs were not used to being right on top of each other, and Rumble felt that he was going to be on the receiving end of some pent up anger soon. Right now, he was stuck at one end of a hallway, waiting for his turn to walk through as mechs made their way to the mess. Apparently, his smaller size had meant that he was not entitled to a turn to fragging walk. In his frustration, Rumble commed Soundwave, asking if he could just go into his chassis already, since he was off duty and had nothing better to do than recharge.

But Soundwave did not answer his hail. Which meant that he was either asleep or not answering on purpose, or couldn't answer. Slag. What if someone had stuffed him in a closet? Maybe they had gotten sick of him always reading their mind and seeing through their lies?

So now he was roaming around the length of the sub, looking in random closets for his Commander. With Starscream blessedly asleep, the TIC was Commanding Officer on the ship, meaning that any request, question, or complaint was filtered through the tape deck. Rumble had a whole list of complaints in case he did find Soundwave just sitting quietly somewhere, wondering why his cassette was so worried. Well, not so much wondering as knowing, but meh.

He checked the aft sonar room and noticed that it looked like a techno-organic had been trapped in there. There was dents and bright paint transfers on the door and on the floor directly in front of him, but he didn't think much about it. In fact, he just turned around and left, satisfied that Soundwave was definitely not in there. How mechs chose to pass the time down here was not his business as long as he didn't walk in on it.

As soon as he left the sonar room, he got a return hail from Soundwave telling him he was fine. Query: Why so concerned? Rumble frowned. He didn't feel like actually saying he missed the tape deck, but it was true he had been gone for a long time. Usually the telepath spent his spare time with the cassettes but lately he had been occupying his time elsewhere.

Soundwave apparently didn't need the explanation. Command: Come to Megatron's quarters.

Rumble froze. He felt extremely unsure, even of his own commander. He wanted to see Soundwave but... Megatron's quarters? There were many things wrong with that command, and many of them began with "Megatron is dangerous."

Soundwave tried to assure him, and finally Rumble relented, willing to cast off his doubt for a little while. Besides, Soundwave was there. Whatever was in there couldn't be that bad.

Oh, was he wrong.

It wasn't so much he was surprised to see mechs cuddling; even in the Decepticon ranks there was some affection between lovers. Well, most of the time it was a quickie in some storage closet, but that wasn't what set off the cassette.

It was who was cuddling was the problem.

His processor heated up as his faceplate twisted in the most confused and grossed-out look he could muster. "You ‘facing the seeker?" he said in a high-pitched protest.

Soundwave replied, "Query: Is there a problem with that?"

Starscream huffed his vents and pushed Soundwave away. What was it with mechs bragging about 'facing him?

Soundwave looked amused. He then cocked his helm as Rumble's optic began to twitch. "Answer: Cuddling is necessary for Starscream's claustrophobia." The seeker angrily folded his arms across his chassis, but then slowly leaned into the crook of Soundwave's hold. This was the most amount of animation Soundwave had seen from the seeker since his "discipline," and he found he was very pleased. Apparently, all it took was the disgusted face of a subordinate to make Starscream arrogant again.

Rumble held a servo up to his helm. "I... don't understand. Why don't you just put him back with the rest of the seekers?"

Soundwave was about to answer, but Starscream beat him to it. "You do realize whose quarters we are in, right?"

Rumble frowned. Well, that part made sense. In only a way that Megatron made sense. He took his servo away from his helm and cocked it on his hip. "Well, gosh, boss, if you wanted a pet, I could have gotten you a turborat or something. At least their squeaks are more pleasing to the ear."

Soundwave's visor glinted in amusement as Starscream glowered. "Watch it, twerp. I could still crush you to death with my sheer height."

Rumble scoffed. "Then I would just take you into a smaller room and see how you deal-" He stopped as he noticed the warning look from his Commander. That look meant he went too far. He usually got it when he and Frenzy got into fights that had started off good-natured, but then descended into a verbal match that Rumble usually had the last, and worst, words in. He was about to mumble a not sincere apology when he noticed the change he had elicited in the seeker.

Starscream's faceplate was no longer glowering; in fact, he was quite blank. He had tensed and tried to relax but was obviously having a hard time of it. When his wings began to flutter, Soundwave leaned in to hold him with his other arm, and the fluttering only slowed. Starscream had shuttered his optics and looked like he was grimacing in pain.

Rumble didn't know what to make of the display. He was oddly disturbed to see the TIC embrace the SIC, but at the same time fascinated. Especially as a cassette, he had no concept of claustrophobia. But here he saw it giving a physical reaction to the jet-alt.

"Why is he even in here?" Starscream said through his clenched denta. He gave an angry glare at the cassette who was still watching avidly.

Soundwave pulled back as Starscream came out of the small fit. "Observation: Rumble was lonely."

"Uggh. Thanks, boss," Rumble muttered, looking down. Soundwave did not often understand why mechs liked to keep their feelings a secret; especially weak ones. The cassette waited for some kind of bullying from the seeker since he was obviously embarrassed, but none came. He looked up and saw Starscream looking distantly at him.

Huh. He looked very lonely too.

"So...uhm, this is where you have been?" Rumble asked, careful.

Soundwave gave and appraising look to his cassette. He always got that look when he didn't know how to read an emotion from another. Then he tilted his head knowingly. "Realization: I have been neglecting my cassettes. Observation: You are jealous."

Again, Rumble's faceplate heated up. He hadn't been thinking those thoughts exactly, but there was no point in arguing with the mech. Instead he just pursed his lips and crossed his arms angrily. Sometimes it wasn't fair to have a telepath as your caretaker.

Again, he waited for a scathing remark, but the bristling seeker was far too distant. It was if he was mentally vacant. Starscream turned his head slowly to Soundwave. "You could put me to sleep below deck while you entertained them." His voice was defeated as he knew it was a lost cause. At this point, he seemed to be just going through the motions of begging, not actually feeling it anymore.

Soundwave ignored him. "Resolution: I will change duty schedules to make sure we are on the same rotation." There. Fixed.

Rumble nodded, idly thinking that that was not what he had meant, but he quickly covered that thought over with how the seeker looked really sick. His paint was was scraped and obviously not touched up. It was dull and had not been polished. But that didn't compare to the wan look on his faceplates. He just looked wrong.

Suddenly Megatron's voice came over the speaker to the room. "Soundwave, we have a rapidly approaching contact dead astern. I believe it is our Autobot brethren coming to ask us to pull over."

"Reply: I shall be there shortly." He began to get up. But Starscream tensed, grasping onto him even harder.

"I'm afraid we're both needed here, Soundwave," Megatron said, accurately assessing Starscream's reaction to the news.

“I-I can’t-“ Starscream began, his vocalizer cracking.

Soundwave hummed to the seeker who was grasping onto him for dear life. Then he turned an gaze to Rumble. "Solution: Rumble will stay."

"What?" Rumble and Starscream said in unison. They both looked at each other in disgust, and Soundwave began to pry the seeker off of him while he was distracted.

"Command: Rumble sit on berth. I will return once threat is neutralized." Starscream lost his grip on his comforter and nearly fell off the berth trying to keep hold of him.

"Wait, please! Please don't leave," he said. "Or at least put me back with my trine! I'm too much trouble awake! Please."

Soundwave looked from the begging seeker to Rumble. "Command amended: Sit on berth and do not leave this room." And with that, the telepath left, locking the door from the outside.

Rumble was a second slow by the time he realized Soundwave was locking him in with the weird Starscream. "Wait! Boss, wait! He wants you not me!" He kept pushing the override switch on the door, but he got nothing. He took to banging on the door with his fists knowing that no one in their right mind would try to help someone out of Megatron's private quarters. The cassette slumped his helm against the door, and then slowly turned around to see the seeker staring at him.

He was frozen with his servo outstretched to the door in one final plea to the receding back of the tape deck. But when he saw Rumble turn around, he slowly let his arm down and looked down on the berth. He was on all fours but then he slowly slumped into a seated position, seeming to crumple in on himself.

Rumble watched carefully as the seeker trembled with his arms around himself. Obviously, this was torture for him, but the cassette wasn't so sure he wanted to be quick to stop it. Starscream was one scary Pit-spawn, and he probably deserved just a little of what was happening to him. And he wasn't going to say that part of him didn't delight in the seeker's torture. Albeit a small part. But it was another part of this Decepticon, long since turned into a myth by Autobots and Decepticon alike that made him stiffly walk to the edge of the berth and sit down.

Starscream recoiled to the other end of the berth as if he had been hit.

Rumble was quite confused and then indignant. "What? What, am I not good enough for you?"

The seeker just glared at him through blazing optics as his intakes hitched. Apparently, he was going to force himself to choke on his own hyperventilation.

Rumble turned as if he were going to follow the seeker to the other side of the berth, but the seeker waved his arms. "Don't you dare touch me!" he cried angrily.

"What the slag." he growled. "I'm just trying to...help. Okay? I'm not going to hurt you."

Starscream grimaced again as pain shot through his frame. He shook like he was being mildly electrocuted, but it was completely an internal reaction. Starscream managed to get his optics back open and he gave Rumble a significant look. "Fine...just...don't-ah...move."

Rumble stiffened when he saw the seeker trying to crawl near him. Suddenly he wasn't so sure that he should have tried so hard to get him to relent. "Uhm, I won't?"

As the cassette continued to sit on the edge of the berth, Starscream came up behind him in a jerking fashion. It was like his processor was glitching as his motor cortex was being poked with a cattle prod. The seeker lay down, curling around the back of the cassette like some kind of turbocat. Rumble felt the seeker behind him, the black helm to his left and the bright blue pedes to his right. It was a little weird that the seeker was right up against him like that, and it didn't help that his energy field was terribly prickly.

Starscream stopped glitching and lay against his back with obvious discontent. Rumble itched to ask what exactly was wrong with him, but he was distracted by the weird warmth the seeker was giving off. It radiated off the jet in waves, ebbing and flowing onto Rumble's armor. "Mmm," he said before he could help it.

Starscream's optics glanced at him. "Are you... comfortable?" He sounded resigned, bitter.

"You're just so warm. Are you sick or something?"

Starscream snorted. "I'm overheating from the lack of defrag."  Starscream relaxed more and more of his weight went up against the cassette.

Rumble stiffened, and Starscream came into contact with more of that cool, soothing plating. He shuttered his optics in the sensation.

"Why don't you just recharge then? Have they really kept you awake all of this time?" His voice lacked concern though deep down he felt a twinge of it, even if it was pure selfishness. If they could torture Starscream like this, it was only a matter of time before they devised methods for others in the army.

Starscream sighed. Grounders really were ignorant of seeker ways, but it was probably partly their fault for being so secretive. "Recharge staves it off, but we can't fully defrag except after being in the air. So even though I'm recharging, it's... not the same."

Rumble shifted a little, settling into his Starscream-shaped backrest. "Why don't you guys ever get like this on the base or on the Nemesis?" He had seen the seekers a little antsy before, but never like this.

"Because there we have an escape." He continued about how they could leave the crashed star cruiser that was their base in the ocean, and they could leave the Nemesis when it was in operation. But here? Not so. The pressure would crush them instantly like they were imploding down on their spark casing. All these thoughts raced through his processor and were sludgy from his lack of defrag, so they stuck around uncomfortably long.

"Why would you be designed so weak?"

"Why are you asking so many questions?" He sighed irritably.

"Sorry, but I get bored."

Starscream shuttered his optics, trying to ignore his rapidly growing annoyance. "What do you want to talk about?"

Sensing the seeker's mood, Rumble decided to be nice. "All right, just three more questions and then I'll let you recharge. Okay?"

"Is that one of the questions?" Starscream asked, smirking.

Rumble smiled back shifting in a short shove. "No," he said. He could almost laugh at the scene, because it was just so... surreal. Was Starscream being playful? Was he playing back?

"Well? Ask then. And I get three of my own."

Rumble nodded. "Okay. What exactly is your relationship with your trio?"

"Trine," the seeker corrected. Then a small grin played on his mouthplates. "Whatever do you mean?"

"Well. Uhm." Rumble suddenly had lost his nerve. They had all heard brilliant stories of seekers interfacing, and it burned at all of them to know the truth. Did they really… each other? All at once?

"I guess I'm asking if you guys are just brothers... or..."

"Yes." It was a statement, not a question. Rumble became very confused.

"Yes to which? You are just friends?" Gulp. "Lovers?" he squeaked.

Starscream was grinning wildly now. "Yes."

Rumble sighed in defeat. "Your turn."

"What exactly is your relationship with Soundwave?"

Rumble stopped for a moment. He knew what Starscream was asking as he had heard the whispers sweep behind him as he left a room. Protected by the telepath. Off-limits. Untouchable. Owned. It was no surprise that he sought either one of his fellow cassettes or Soundwave when he was off-duty because no one else would go near him.

"He's like a creator. But a little more dangerous than that."

Starscream's smirk had diminished, slightly.  Dangerous he understood.

"I mean, we were all like orphans, you know? And Soundwave, third-in-command of the Decepticon army, approached Frenzy and me to ask if... or rather told us… we would be some kind of spec ops team for him. I was already small, so being reformatted into a mini-cassette was not much of a problem. But we didn't realize that we would have no... self, aside from him."

Starscream kept his gaze trained on the berth in front of him. "Can I ask another question, or do you want one?"

Rumble folded his arms across his chassis, angry that he had blabbed so much.  “Sorry, my turn.  Why are they doing this to you?"

Starscream tensed. "I don't know.  Well.  I mean I do know why, I just don’t understand why now," He absentmindedly nuzzled Rumble's knee, trying to cool his faceplate. The cassette was suddenly very happy that Starscream, unlike the TIC, was not a telepath.

“I don’t understand,” Rumble said, trying to keep his faceplates from heating up too much.

Starscream sighed.  “It is complicated,” he replied quietly.  “They want me to stop being…” he just let the sentence end there, not sure on how to end it.  "If I knew exactly what they wanted, I would slagging just give it to them. But that seems to be part of it. That I'm not supposed to know I'm losing."

Rumble could feel the hurt in the seeker's vocalizer, and he felt a little guilty for thinking this mech deserved what he was getting. "Did you do something really bad lately?"

"My turn," the seeker said, closing the door he had let Rumble peak through. "How many mechs do you think I've interfaced with?"

Rumble nearly jumped at the question. Starscream's optics were glinting with mischievous glee and he could tell the seeker was trying to lighten up the mood by making him hopelessly embarrassed.

"Uhh... Do I have to answer?"

"Unless you want to give me an out on your questions."

Rumble frowned, since Starscream had already refused to answer his first question to his satisfaction. Still, he decided to press onward.

"All right. How about... as many as you wanted?"

Starscream suddenly laughed and then purred with approval. "Clever little bot. There might be hope for you yet." Rumble positively beamed from the praise, silently patting himself on the back. He knew that Starscream was hard to impress, and he wondered sadly if this little interaction would help him out later. Probably not.

Feeling emboldened by the reply he said.  "All right. Megatron or Soundwave?"

"Neither. Or both. Depends on what you are talking about." Again, a devious grin. Primus, this mech was quite stunning with a smile when pleased. Starscream shifted a little so that Rumble wasn't against his hip, but laying against his chassis. It could mean that the seeker was just seeking comfort in a new position, or it could mean that he was finally growing comfortable with the cassette being there. Always ambiguous.

Starscream chuckled. "I decided I'm giving you my last question." He looked to the cassette expectantly.

Rumble felt a little honored and thought quickly about something he really wanted to know. One thing had been bothering him.  "Why were you so hesitant before? I mean about... touching me. I know you... uh, needed it."

Starscream looked down, all of his mirth evaporating. He was thinking somewhat clearly for the first time since he was brought in here, and he realized that his initial reaction probably was rather hard on the smaller mech's self-esteem. "It wasn't you per se," he began. "It was more that you gave me a choice."

Rumble bit back a frown. Megatron he knew, but... Soundwave really was scary sometimes.

"With them, I woke up and I was positioned that way. In their arms. And even though my mind said no... I really do need it. The contact. The presence. But I never had a conscious choice in the matter. With you... you gave me the opportunity to try and resist it. I'm glad I failed."

Rumble's spark surged at that, both wondering if it was meant to be so spark-warming and if the seeker was just a little crazy from the confined space.

"So, what's going to happen after we get there? He's gonna let you out, right?"

Starscream held up a digit and waved it back and forth. "Ah, ah, ah cassette. That's the three questions."

"Fine if you want to be an aft about it, but I was just curious. No doubt you'll forget about me once you're out of here."

Starscream nestled closer. "You were forced into this like I was. I owe you neither gratitude nor revenge."

Rumble huffed his intakes, settling in to the warm seeker. "Fine. Well, I want to lie down because I'm tired. Move over."

The cassette nudged the seeker who complied. Rumbled put his helm at the top of the berth (this was Megatron's?) and almost squeaked when Starscream came up right behind him. The seeker wound around Rumble's waist and enveloped the smaller cassette by his uncomfortably warm plates. Rumble thought it was not an unpleasant sensation to be so held, but the circumstances were so strange and unique that it took most of the enjoyment out of it. The seeker just needed him. Used him.

Starscream felt his fans slow in relaxation. This was as close as he could get to feeling normal, and he no longer felt terribly embarrassed by his dependence.  Was it because he didn’t think Rumble was a threat? He initiated a few subroutines of thought to try and get himself out of this mess.  But eventually they would have to let him out of the submarine, so maybe he could just wait. 

His optics shot wide and he tensed.

Rumble tried to lean back. "What's wrong?" he asked sleepily.

Starscream felt his fans whirring and the absolute relaxation he had achieved evaporated. Those slaggers. Those absolute, slagging skidplates, aftholes for mouths, sparkless cheating Pit spawn. They wanted to use this opportunity to make him dependent on them permanently. And so that must be why Megatron was so delighting in his fall from grace; he saw it as a sign that Starscream was being... tamed. How foolish. How idiotic.

How humiliating.

"Starscream?" came the concerned voice of the mini-cassette. Ah, but the one comforter that didn't have an agenda.

Starscream decided that maybe he should reward the cassette.

The seeker relaxed and rubbed his noseplate against the back of Rumble's neck. "I'm fine, little one." He smiled when Rumble stiffened a little.

"Uhm, Starscream... if you just want to go to sleep, could you stop-"

"Oh, is that an invitation?" the seeker purred.

"Wh-what?" Rumble tried to get out of the grip, but Starscream held on tighter. "Seriously, Starscream, this isn't funny." Now he was the one who was desperately fighting back panic.

"'Seriously Starscream,'" the red and white seeker mocked, playfully. He rubbed his noseplate against the back of Rumble's audios letting his heated vents blow some air out teasingly. Again, Rumble attempted to flail. "I'm not trying to offend you, little one. Merely reward you."

"I thought you said you weren't going to.  Reward me." Less panic, more wary. Starscream's version of reward might be a little skewed given his condition.

"Well, I changed my mind. I'm your superior officer, so I'm allowed to do so." His digits flexed on Rumble's chassis, quick and light enough that it was by accident, of course. "You've given me lots of information to think about. And I want to... give you something in return."

"That won't be necessary."

Starscream paused to pout. "Well, all right. Last chance- if you say stop I will, because I now feel that I owe you. But if you want me to continue..." he said, huskily.

Rumble was just about to ask him to stop, in fact his vocalizer was already given the command to speak, but he hesitated.

That was all the encouragement Starscream needed.

Starscream allowed his lip components to run along the back of Rumble's neck. Just in case the cassette was still confused as to how nicely this could go, he squeezed the frame he had trapped beside him. He could feel the cassette's intakes hitching at the sensation, and he smirked. He loved to condescend because such mechs felt so honored to have his attentions.

Rumble sucked in air through his intakes, shuttering his optics. This could not be real. It was some kind of elaborate... joke. At his expense. But... slag, there was a glossa that entered the mix. And it was just a tryst, right? No real consequences.

"Mmm," Rumble said, followed by some unintelligible mumbling. He felt the frame behind him vibrate in a laugh.

"I'm sorry, little one, I didn't catch that..." The seeker's servo drifted down to Rumble's exposed thigh as his lip components found some sensitive areas in Rumble's neck.

Rumble gave a little grunt, arching his neck to give the seeker more access. "I'm sorry, I'm just a little-ah! Distracted." Starscream hummed in approval, glad he was causing such an effect.

Starscream decided not to waste any more time. He leaned down on top of Rumble, securing his mouth plates over the cassette's. He was gentle at first, soft and kind.  Rumble produced a light noise of approval, eagerly grabbing the seeker's helm to tilt him farther into their kiss.

The cassette's willingness to participate quickly receded his claustrophobia for the moment. But suddenly his pede was roughly grabbed from behind.

"Starscream: Remove yourself from Rumble," came the monotone. Both Starscream and Rumble's optics shot wide when they realized they had been joined. How long had the slagger been there? Starscream leaned down to give Rumble one final kiss, knowing he was being watched, but Soundwave tore him away and pinned him against the wall, practically smashing his faceplate into it.

"Starscream: bad decision. Rumble: leave immediately."

"Yessir," Rumble said, hastily extricating himself from the berth and headed for the door. He threw one last glance at Starscream who managed to give Rumble a wink. When the cassette left, he managed a smile, knowing he was going to get it later... but it was worth it.

Soundwave roughly turned Starscream around so that now his back and wings were against the wall, and the seeker was facing the tape deck. Starscream had a look of defiance on his faceplate, with a smug grin adding insult to injury. The seeker didn't say anything, but he didn't really have to.

Soundwave cocked his helm. Then he commed Megatron, putting the conversation on speaker so that Starscream could also hear him.

"Megatron: I caught Starscream attempting to escape through treachery. Query: May I discipline him?"

Starscream's optics blazed at the lie. Perhaps there was something to be learned from this subtle liar.

"Of course, Soundwave. Just leave some for me." Megatron clicked off, and Starscream wondered if Megatron knew where this was going.

"I thought you two were busy with the Autobots, so I had to keep myself entertained..." Starscream said, shifting his wings a little against the wall. His arrogant confidence was back in full stride thanks to his fun, albeit interrupted, jaunt with the mini-cassette. Soundwave narrowed his optics.

"Statement: You should not have violated my cassette."

"Violated?" Starscream repeated, incredulous. "More like freed. Mech was being smothered by your inattention, Soundwave. I think you are just jealous that I took the initiative with him. Or, rather, I took the initiative with him rather than with you."

Soundwave was not amused. "Repeat: You should not have violated my cassette. There will be consequences." He roughly clubbed Starscream over the head with his fist.

Starscream fell to the ground with a cry that turned into a dark laugh. "Emotionless was ever a wrong description of you, wasn't it? Perhaps I'm still so much trouble that you should just put me back to sleep." The seeker smiled malevolently at the telepath that loomed over him, knowing he was hitting a chord.

Soundwave raised his servo as if to strike the seeker and Starscream's optics glittered with laughter at the approaching beating since he knew he had regained some of what he had lost. He still had the innate ability to piss mechs off.

But instead of hitting him, Soundwave grabbed his helm and attached a small device to the side. It was small and black, and once it was attached, it locked on, obviously not going anywhere. Starscream just looked slightly amused and was about to make a snide comment when suddenly his vision went out.

"What the-" he started. His optics had gone completely out and there was no amount of manual override he could come up with to make them come back on. He clawed at his helm, knowing that the device was somehow responsible, but it refused to budge.

"Answer: This is your punishment. Statement: The room is getting smaller."

Starscream's servos froze at his helm. They slowly went down to his sides, but he wasn't shaking or anything. "No... it's not. You are lying."

Soundwave sat down on the berth, only a short distance from the seeker sprawled on the ground. "Statement: Pressure is making the bulkheads swell. The room has decreased in size," he replied in a monotone.

Starscream tilted his helm upwards, but saw nothing, obviously. A groan of the hull made him shiver, but he merely folded his arms across his chassis. "Yeah? Prove it."

"Reply: I don't have to prove it. Feel it yourself." He saw the seeker sigh and Starscream slowly get up, feeling around to make sure there weren't any obstacles in his way. He slowly raised his servos above his helm and began to feel the ceiling. The look on his faceplate was one of confusion and then shock.

Starscream's wings were the first sign that his lie had worked. They flared back and then he saw Starscream's entire frame tense in terror. Finally, the seeker became more and more scared, his mind slowly descending back into paranoia.

Nothing had in fact happened to the ceiling or anything else in the room. But Soundwave knew that the seeker had never measured it or felt it himself, so what he was seeing was the power of suggestion at work. Starscream was unsure if Soundwave was telling the truth, and without his optics, he could not be certain.

Soundwave became increasingly satisfied by the seeker's mind reverting back to its conditioned state. He had been willing to let Rumble interact with the seeker since Starscream had been so broken after the last discipline session, as the seeker had shown such improvement when Rumble had merely entered the room. He had not meant for it to give Starscream a complete confidence boost, making him defiant and treacherous again. It was almost as if the tryst with Rumble had undone everything he and Megatron had achieved since Starscream had begun his taming.

And Soundwave was not going to be the one to tell Megatron that his own cassette had helped.

Starscream had crumpled on the floor again, defeated. He began to feel the floor to find the berth that was near him somewhere. His faceplate was dejected and upset again as his digits hungrily searched for some plating that would give him some comfort. The seeker found Soundwave's leg and latched on kneeling before him, clinging mercilessly for the cooler plates. Starscream was quickly growing exhausted and he resorted to begging, pleading, promising, threatening, but all of it was lost on the telepath.

Eventually his intakes started to hitch.  “Please forgive me,” he said quietly. 

Finally, Soundwave removed the device and Starscream clambered up into the berth, keeping his head down. The telepath leaned back, inviting the seeker into his arms, and without a moment's hesitation, he climbed into the embrace of the TIC. He didn't even bother to look at the ceiling, having known the whole time that it was fine but still not being able to calm himself.

They lay there in silence as Starscream's fans finally cooled and his intakes returned to normal. But as they both drifted into silent recharge, Starscream lingered on the fact that he knew what they were up to, and that was at least a start.

 

Chapter Text

Starscream woke from recharge laying on his side, his wings pinned back behind him, practically off the birth.  He was hugging someone’s leg with both of his blue arms and his noseplate had been nuzzling right up against it.

He stopped and just stared at it for a few moments in humiliated agony, willing the leg to start disintegrating into cosmic rust. 

“Sleep well?” came the low voice next to him.  Starscream could hear the smirk in his voice.  The seeker pushed himself up, stretching and giving Megatron a pointed look.  “It must have been somewhat deep, as you didn’t even notice Soundwave and I had switched.”

Small tendrils of panic wrapped themselves around Starscream’s spark that froze him mid-stretch.  What had Soundwave told Megatron?  The tyrant likely had wanted all the juicy details about his punishment, and Starscream wondered if he was out of danger yet for his… “insubordination.”

Honestly.  He could pass the time as he pleased.  It had been mutual!  For once, he wasn’t trying to be insubordinate, just… do something on his own terms.  What a fragging concept.

Megatron’s optic’s glowed brighter for a moment.

Starscream attempted to pass it off.  “You’re right.  I must have been exhausted from boredom.” He sniffed.  “You could at least let me read or something.”

“But I thought you wanted to go back with your trine?”

Starscream felt his spark freeze, but by now the feeling was so familiar he was able to bury back the resentment that threatened to choke him.   “That is always an option.  The preferred option.”

Megatron considered for a moment, optics dancing in the low yellow light of the quarters.  “I prefer you out here,” he said hand-waving off any other ideas.  “Is this the longest you have ever experienced this… state?  I find you immensely more enjoyable.”

“Megatron,” he said sweetly turning to face the warlord.  “This is not a game,” he said lingering on the last word and over-enunciating each syllable.

“You are just saying that because you are losing.”

Starscream was incensed.  “Do you have any idea what this is doing to me? It’s going to take months to recover from the slag you two are pulling!”  Unbelievable.  Just slagging unbelievable.  “I’m exhausted, my CPU is running way too hot, my wings are sore from being on high-alert from proximity, my pride-“ he said, before cutting himself off and looking away. 

There were going to be lasting effects.  His processor was accumulating too much data related to claustrophobic subroutines, and without defrag, he was going to start to have many of his cognitive functions impaired.  There were seekers who never recovered after being trapped.  He’d met them.  Back at the science academy, they were paraded in from a home to show the other scientists what would happen if they weren’t careful on their exploring missions. 

Skyfire and he had shared a look of dread and both declared never to go into any caves. 

The thought of the shuttle brought him another sobering thought.  Is this how Skyfire felt as he slowly drifted into stasis, trapped under all that ice and snow?  The fear closing around his spark as his wings became immovable and proximity alarms flooded his HUD?

The feeling of never being in control again.

His thoughts were broken by a servo on his wings.  He still wasn’t used to this touch bringing anything other than pain, so he did flinch and tried to bat the servo away.  Megatron caught his servo and kept stroking the wings.  “Does this help?  The soreness, at least?”

Starscream’s helm was exploding from confusion.  Megatron’s voice had been slightly laced with… concern?  He locked eyes with the gunformer with his mouth slightly agape.  But he felt his optics relax a little.  Megatron rightly surmised that it was helping.  “Turn around,” he rumbled.

Starscream looked at him with distrust. “No, my lord, I am f-fine,” he said shaking his head.

Megatron squeezed the wrist he held captive.  “Turn around, or I will force you.  I will be gentle.”

Starscream’s optic twitched.  Did he not hear how conflicting his statements and actions were?!  Megatron was offering help at the tip of a sword.  As usual.  Still, the seeker did eventually turn around, huffing his vents.

Please, lord Megatron… if this is some kind of prelude to a beating, just get it over with.”

“I said I would be gentle,” he heard from behind him.  Starscream felt the soft servos gently go over his wings, surprisingly deft at finding the pain points and massaging them out without denting.  His wings were quite warm, and having the cool servos touch them actually felt quite good.

“Starscream, you’re humming,” he heard Megatron say, amused.

He didn’t care.  It felt so slagging good, and if he closed his optics, he could almost pretend it was one of his trine that was helping  That made him relax more, and he felt his vents start to cool down a little.

“I wonder why we’ve never done this before,” Megatron said quietly, still massaging as gently as he could.

“You usually seem more interested in denting my wings than massaging them, my lord,” he said gently.  Odd.  He had meant it to be a cutting rebuke.

“Usually because you had done something pathetically stupid,” Megatron returned, also gently.  “But I mean it.  I used to do this all the time with my fellows in the gladiatorial rings.  It builds war bonds, something I think our army might be lacking.”

Starscream stifled a laugh.  “Sorry, I would love to see that decree from you, commanding them to massage each other.  They would think you were an imposter.”

Megatron also chuckled.  “It’s still a thought.  Maybe within trines or gestalts.”

“…that already happens.”

Megatron stopped his attentions for a moment.  “…Really?”

Starscream sighed, slightly sad that the touch had stopped.  “Certainly.  Especially in the combiner groups.  Trines do too, but we have other ways of building bonds.”

Megatron began to massage again.  “…care to elaborate?”

“No,” Starscream said.  He leaned into the touch a little as Megatron found a particularly sore spot.  “I’m a little surprised you didn’t know already.”

“Part of being the head of an army is being above everyone- above knowing them too well.  I let you and Soundwave handle the direct communication from our subordinates, and I have to rely on you to filter that information for me.”  Megatron hesitated.  “Now, do my back.”

Starscream’s optics burst open in shock.  “…What?”

“It’s only fair,” Megatron said, laughing a little as he turned around to give Starscream access.

Starscream gulped as he turned around slowly, his relaxed mood suddenly on high alert.  “…are you sure you want me-“

Megatron turned to look over his shoulder and just arced an optic-ridge.  Starscream nodded solemnly and got up on his knees to start massaging… Megatron.

This was weird.  Repairs was one thing, but this was on a whole new level of trust that felt like it must be a trap.  Still he flexed his servos as he began to gently touch the warlord’s back, trying, but failing, to think it was anyone other than Megatron he was touching.

He loathed him!  This was so fragging bizarre.  Through his distress, he noticed Megatron didn’t really relax at all as he massaged.  He felt the warlord chuckle.  “I’m not fragile, Starscream.  You can squeeze harder.”

Right.  Of course.  Gladiator.  He tentatively began to squeeze and knit his brow in confusion.  The mech had some seriously tight kinks in his plating.  Had no one ever done this for him?  The seeker started to go harder which elicited a hiss from the warlord.  The seeker froze, completely unsure if he was about to be beaten, but Megatron just told him to continue.

Wait a minute.  This was extremely stupid of Megatron to expose himself like this!  Maybe he could choke him from behind?  Club his helm to knock him out?  What an absolute fool!

A load groan from the ship broke his concentration and his wings and hands started to tremble uncontrollably.  He leaned his forehead against Megatron’s back and waited for the fit to pass. 

Slag.  This was so unfair.  This was why Megatron was so quick to trust him down here.

The sounds and trembling eventually passed and he could feel the warlord turn and gently embrace him as if he was made of glass.  Starscream kept his helm down and just radiated defeat.  “I don’t know how much more of this I can take,” he said.

“I think you are capable of overcoming this adversity,” Megatron said patronizingly.  He was infuriating.  But then he bent down and said lowly in Starscream’s audios, “Did you have any murderous thoughts while massaging me?”

Starscream almost melted into Megatron’s arms as he started to panic.  “I’m-s-sorry, please, forgive me Megatron, mercy…” He felt terror bubble inside him and threaten to overflow.

Megatron started to pet his helm.  “I think it is progress that you didn’t immediately act on it then,” he said sounding somewhat pleased.

Starscream raised his helm to look up at the warlord.  His optics were filling with cleaning fluid.  “Just… why?!” he cried in anguish.  “I am not worth this… this training!  I’m not!  Why now? Why didn’t you try before? What-what… why…” he said as a sob wracked his intakes. 

Megatron said nothing, but just kept petting his second’s helm.  Starscream was fighting back tears, and to his embarrassment a few fell down his cheekplates.  He slowly sank into the berth, trembling next to his stalwart leader.  No more words were said as Megatron continued to pet the frightened seeker until he felt his intakes had slowed into rhythmic recharge.

They were getting somewhere. 

Megatron gently moved the seeker beside him as he moved to lean back in the berth.  He pulled out a datapad to take more notes.

Fallen into another recharge; intervals between recharge cycles is decreasing.  Emotionally bereft.  Readily admitted to thoughts of harm, but unable to follow through with said thoughts.  Showed more knowledge of troops than originally anticipated.    Conversation was actually… congenial.

Megatron subspaced the pad again.  It seemed Starscream’s mental fortitude was deteriorating, albeit slower than Starscream would have them believe.  Still, this little moment just now confirmed his suspicions that Starscream could be rehabilitated from his propensity to treachery yet. 


Starscream was being woken, but he really didn’t want to return to reality again.  He distantly heard some bickering from what he thought were two of the smaller cassettes.

He sat up angrily, holding a servo up to his optics, trying fight the grogginess of recharge.  “Wha…t?” he said irritably.

“Big boss says we have to move ya,” Rumble said, smiling.  Soundwave’s looming presence was watching from the door, his arms folded.

“Why?” he asked, allowing Rumble and Frenzy to pull him out of the berth.  Megatron was noticeably absent.

“Reward,” came the synthetic monotone from the door.

Starscream did not like the sound of that.  He felt like Soundwave might still be holding a grudge.  But the telepath uncrossed his arms and held out a servo to help him up.  The seeker twitched his wings uncomfortably.

“Reward: change of scenery,” came the reply. 

The seeker scowled as he regarded the servo as if it was about to bite him.  A million thoughts about what this actually meant were swimming through his groggy processor, none of them making any sense or reaching any level of plausibility.  He was too tired to argue at this point, so he took the outstretched servo.  “Fine but… uhm… what time is-“

“It’s the middle of the night,” Rumble said, patting Starscream on the knee.  “Most mechs are asleep, so you should be fine.”  Soundwave had given his cassette a curious tilt of the head but said nothing.  Starscream, for his part did, not mind the cassette’s familiarity.  He had rightly guessed what was bothering him.  He was far too weak to be walking around near other Decepticons that did not have a vested (however sadistic) interest in his well-being.

He twitched his wings back and stepped through the doorway with Soundwave directly in front, and Rumble and Frenzy behind.  In truth, as cramped as the hallway was, just having something new to look at other than Megatron’s quarters felt like he could breathe deeply for a moment.  He had felt the same way earlier, but he was being dragged to the aft sonar room then.  Didn’t have much time to really evaluate his thoughts then.

The memory of the sonar room… well, it didn’t inspire warm and fuzzy feelings.  Seeing the silhouettes of the two mechs who were both his comfort and misery abandon him to the dark still haunted his recharge cycles.  Being alone in there, hearing the pings of metal slowly condense, knowing the thousands of feet of water above them, and that there was no escape had created a panic in him that he had never known before.  He had lost himself for a moment in there, not totally sure how it had ended, just that he felt Soundwave holding him and humming to him to bring him back.  His wings twinged at the memory.

They walked for some time when Soundwave turned around and indicated they go into the mess.  In it were signs that many mechs usually occupy during active duty cycles, but for now it was quite empty.  “What’ll ya have, Starscream?  I’ll get you some energon,” Rumble said with a genuine smile.

Starscream looked down at the smaller mech and despite the small tremble in his servos, he was able to afford a small smirk at the corner of his mouth.  In truth, he was not feeling hungry, though he knew he was going through a lot of energon.  But the mech was being so damned sincere. “Regular grade is fine,” he replied.

He noticed Frenzy’s optics were flicking back and forth between his brother and the seeker.  As Rumble turned to walk away, Frenzy used two digits to indicate his optics, then pointed to Starscream.  I’m watching you.

Starscream huffed and rolled his optics.  Obviously, Frenzy had believed Soundwave’s version of events not Rumble’s.  He didn’t believe for a moment that Rumble was throwing him under the bus-alt.  Starscream did realize however his behavior was not in line with how he usually operated, but surely everyone could understand the pressures he was under…. Well.  What a fragging stupid pun.

Tremors increased slightly in his servos and he winced. He attempted to hide the action by folding his arms, but he knew the telepath had seen it.  There was a cool stare from Soundwave making his plating feel like it was peeling.  “What?” he said exasperatedly.

“Reply: Monitoring your actions in regard to safety of cassettes.”

Starscream rolled his optics again.  He felt like he was going to be doing that a lot on this little field trip.  But.  He did feel more functional than he had in a while since this whole thing started so he bit back his original, scathing (and honestly quite amazing, you would be impressed dear reader) reply.  “I’ve learned my lesson, Soundwave.  Ask for your permission first before playing with cassetticons.”

Soundwave seemed to relax a little, surprisingly.  He nodded once and held out an arm, indicating they should find a seat.  Starscream inclined his helm in agreement and sat down at one of the farthest tables from the door, seating himself so that his wings would be facing the rest of the room, that way they would have plenty of information to absorb without feeling cramped right up against the bulkhead.

“Eject: Ravage.” Starscream couldn’t help but flinch as the mini-cassette jumped out of Soundwave’s chest.  She, in turn, regarded the seeker quite warily.  But Soundwave merely took out a bowl from subspace and poured her some energon, which she happily began to lap up.

“No Laserbeak?” said Starscream, watching the panther drink.

“Laserbeak would not do well in enclosed spaces,” came the reply.

Starscream turned slowly to the telepath, incredulous.  “Really,” he ground out.  The telepath’s visor glittered in amusement. 

The other two cassettes returned, holding their energon.  Rumble looked like he was going to try to sit next to Starscream, but Frenzy had sprinted to take the seat himself.  Starscream just looked amused as he started to sip his energon.  It was a little stale, but likely all their stores were going to be like this for the remainder of the voyage.  He took two sips then set it back down.

“Your color looks better,” Rumble said while wiping his lips with the back of his servo.  “Are you feeling any better?”

Starscream felt his gaze soften a little.  The little mech was growing on him.  But outwardly he made an indifferent shrug.  “Some moments are better than others.”

“I’m surprised, considering the stories I’ve heard,” said Frenzy.  “I fully expected you to be foaming at the mouth or something,’” he said drinking the rest of his cube.  “You know.  Like a squirrel.”

Starscream felt his patience slip.  “A squirrel?” he asked sweetly.  “Oh no, no, when seekers go rabid, we go completely feral.  We become energon-thirsty, super-strong, angry mechs that wreak havoc on any of those who ever dared insult us,” he said, his voice raising a few octaves at the end.  Frenzy’s optics had grown huge, and Rumble was barely suppressing a snicker.

“Starscream: relax.”

The seeker flinched from the low voice.  He picked up his energon again and attempted to drink, barely tolerating one sip while looking away.  Annoying brat. 

Frenzy was a little in awe at the exchange.  Both Rumble and Soundwave had explained what was going on with the second-in-command, but he still couldn’t believe that Starscream was somewhat behaving.  He had expected the seeker to attack Soundwave at the idea that he could issue him commands, even innocuous as “relax.”  He felt emboldened.  He reached out to touch one of Starscream’s wings.

Starscream tensed and then turned on the cassette in a hiss.  “How dare you touch me, you tiny, insignificant, PIT-SPAWN!” 

Frenzy was grinning wildly because despite how scary Starscream sounded, no blows came.  He was effectively muzzled!  Many, many ideas popped into his head on how to mess with the scary ball of wings next to him. 

Frenzy then felt someone club his helm from the side.  “What the frag-“

“Don’t be a fragging aft,” he heard his brother say, angrily as he sat back down from leaning across the table.

Before he could retort, the ship made a loud mournful clicking noise at it continued to condense under the pressure as they still descended into the murky, alien ocean.  Starscream jumped in his seat, hitting his knees into the table, almost spilling his energon.  Frenzy pointed and guffawed, holding his sides as he laughed. He didn’t really notice he was alone in his chortling.

Starscream was hugging himself and trying to cool his intakes, despite the rude cassette next to him continuing to make fun of him.  He groaned as he just put his forehead on the table to try and calm down.  He heard Soundwave say something, and some bickering from Frenzy, but he couldn’t quite make out what was being said.  His audios swam with a loud rushing noise, and his wings felt icy-hot as if they were being seared by the sun.  He stared at the metal table in front of his optics, searching for a pattern to focus on that might distract him from the terror he felt his mind falling into.  He felt a gentle servo rubbing his arm gently, and the energy field was familiar.  His audios slowly came back online.

“…be okay, Star.”  Rumble.

He closed his optics.  He had never allowed anyone but his trine to call him that.  Well… and Skyfire.  He should be indignant that a subordinate felt so familiar and dared to use that nickname.  But well, everyone was being more familiar with him these days.  The annoyance washed right off of him.  His intakes were able to slow and after a few moments more he was able to sit up.

Soundwave’s visor looked like it was contorted into concern.  Starscream sighed, suddenly feeling very, very tired.  “I would like to go back to the room,” he said quietly.

Frenzy threw a weird look his way, clearly still not used to seeing this version of Starscream.  It was damned unnerving.  Soundwave nodded and got up out of his seat, helping Starscream up as well.  The seeker felt worn out as his servos trembled and he felt his dentae chatter in his mouth. He dimly heard Rumble chastise his brother, and it was punctuated by some growls from Ravage as he walked away.

Soundwave and Starscream walked out of the mess and down the hallway and even though the hallway was tight and occasionally his wings almost grazed the sides, he felt a lot better.  He still felt the compulsion to constantly look around for any and all exits, but he wasn’t paralyzed by his fear. 

Soundwave was being very patient with him.  Likely from all those eons managing a mini-spec ops team of cassettes. 

The sub shuttered slightly, and a small whine indicated that they were adjusting their angle of descent.  Up until now, they had been maintaining depth as they mapped the waters of Europa and searched for the creatures that inhabited here.  It appeared that it was time to move to deeper waters.  The two Decepticons felt the floor tip a little beneath them, and Soundwave quickly put a servo up into the low ceiling to grab a pipe to steady himself.

Wordlessly, he grabbed the seeker and pulled him close.

Starscream’s optics had been wide with shock, his wings flared back.  But the proximity to the tape-deck was familiar enough now that it didn’t immediately trigger any alarm. 

But did he have to hold him around the waist?

The tape-deck’s visor dimmed slightly and he pulled Starscream closer.  The jet felt a blush sweep his faceplate as he looked away, also trying find purchase in the ceiling above.

The sub readjusted its bow planes and was back to the relative flatness of before.  Starscream looked up at the ceiling with wide optics waiting to see if any other maneuvers were going to throw him off his pedes.

“You’d think they would warn us they were about to do that,” he said irritably.  The tape-deck said nothing, still holding the seeker close to him.  Starscream turned and looked at the tape-deck’s faceplate that was mere inches from his own and sighed.  “I think you can let me go now.”

Soundwave paused and just stood there for a moment longer, feeling Starscream start to tense.  He squeezed him one more time, then let go.  Starscream glared as he preened and checked for paint transfers but in finding none just folded his arms irritably.  He whirred his fans harder to cool down his flushed faceplate.

The mech was teasing him.  The nerve!  He was already compromised; he didn’t need to worry about catching unfortunate feelings at a time like this.  He looked at the mech appraisingly, a thought thread starting in his mind about how that would even go between them…

But he quickly closed that door, feeling Soundwave trying to poke into his mind.  “Stop it,” he said closing his optics to try and fight the invasion into his mind.  Soundwave wasn’t letting up though.  Usually the telepath stopped when he started feeling resistance in Starscream’s mind, and they often went through this dance together when Megatron wanted to know what Starscream was planning.  Starscream had developed quite a few mental buffers to specifically keep the Communications Officer out of his helm.

But they were all failing, falling down before Soundwave’s onslaught like stacks of energon cubes.  The third in command advanced on Starscream with his eerie stare, and Starscream felt himself backing up against the bulkhead grimacing.  “STOP,” he said stronger, angrier.  He pulled his digits up to his temple, just behind his optics at the blooming pain developing there as he struggled against Soundwave reading his mind.

Stop resisting and it won’t hurt,” the seeker heard in his mind.  Soundwave put a servo on the bulkhead next to Starscream’s helm and leaned closer to the struggling jet.  Starscream could see the processes running in Soundwave’s visor, speeding through code and equations faster than he could read them.

He was stubborn, but he was also weakened.  With a hateful glare and a blush, he released his buffers and felt Soundwave tumble into his mind far more gently than he had expected.

Soundwave hesitated, looking surprised.  Then he too blushed.

“Got what you wanted?” Starscream grumbled.

Soundwave leaned back and quickly retreated from Starscream’s mind.  “… Apologies,” came the monotone.  “Search for insubordination:… Negative.”

Starscream had pulled his servo up to his faceplate in embarrassed frustration.  “Let’s… just go.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Starscream sat next to Soundwave on the berth with a large, expandable data pad laid out in front of him.  He had requested something to do, and since he had been an explorer in a previous life, mapping this new world would not be a difficult task for him.  And one that he couldn’t exactly turn into a plot.

Soundwave was sorting and reorganizing recordings he had taken of the dive.  His visor was dim with heavy concentration as played them back, flagging pieces he wanted to further analyze.

Things had been awkward for the last few cycles between them.  Soundwave was the last mech Starscream wanted to be stuck with at the moment, but as usual, he didn’t get a say.  He had attempted to comm Megatron out of desperation but found his comms had been disabled, along with all of his weapons.  They didn’t want him trying to forge an alliance with someone and get out of his position.

The whole thing had just been some big misunderstanding ;he was allowed to have idle thoughts without being treated like he was plotting to blow up the entire submarine.  And the thoughts didn’t even mean anything!  He had been so bored, frightened, anxious and tense, he couldn’t be held accountable for where his mind went.

Although… Soundwave’s reaction had been almost endearing.  Got a bit of a mindful, didn’t he? 

He smirked as he plot down another large piece of debris on the map, and added some trajectory information that could help possibly predict where it might be in the future.  Zooming out of the map he tilted his helm, not convinced that the positioning was correct.  He pulled out the smaller datapad and re-evaluated the coordinates that their ship had placed the piece and huffed his vents.  His positioning was correct based on the data he had, but the data was incomplete.

Soundwave reached over and touched the offensive piece of debris and adjusted its surface.  “Amending: Small adjustment based on echoes.”

Starscream pursed his lips as he watched.  That would make more sense. Suddenly the debris piece fit perfectly into the equation, and he smiled.  “Excellent,” he replied as the map turned green and everything fell into place.  On a broader picture, they had not mapped very much of Europa yet, but it seemed the debris was swirling in certain places in underwater eddies and currents caused by the massive tidal forces coming from Jupiter.  Starscream had been able to calculate the forces and create a moving map with relatively good accuracy.

“Starscream: Impressive,” Soundwave had said as he watched the map move in real time, almost as if it was being monitored by a giant array. 

Starscream grinned at the rare praise.  “It’s too bad we didn’t do a deep survey before we got here, this would have been a lot easier.”

Soundwave paused but said nothing.  Just went back to his recordings.

Starscream narrowed his optics, irritated.  He was right and he knew it.  He wasn’t being critical, per se.  Still, he had to remember who he was talking to.  A slight tremor traveled through his digits as he quickly collapsed down the map back down to its normal size as a datapad.  Was… Soundwave telling Megatron he was being treacherous again? 

He stole a look at the tape deck and noticed his visor was dim.

Starscream swallowed.  He felt his intakes hitch a little and his venting increased.  Were they going to punish him again?  The sonar room?  The device that took away his ability to see?  Other new tortures they hadn’t developed yet?  He closed his optics, attempting to slow his intakes.

“Soundwave,” he said nervously. 

The tape-deck didn’t respond.

Soundwave, I uh- I didn’t mean anything by it…”

Soundwave held up a single digit, clearly asking for Starscream to be quiet.  He pulled his other servo up to cover his audio.

Starscream bit back a whine, feeling the panic pulse inside him.  They were talking to each other; he just knew it.  They were talking about how to punish him.  He couldn’t stand not knowing.  He leaned forward, trying to catch his breath but it somehow escaped him.

The door to the quarters opened and Megatron entered, and Starscream lost it.  “NO, no, no PLEASE,” he said, throwing his helm onto the berth in a bow.  Soundwave snapped his helm to the seeker and was surprised to feel the energy field of the seeker in such a state of panic in such a quick amount of time.

“I’m sorry!” he said, pathetically.

Both Megatron and Soundwave exchanged confused looks.

“What exactly are you sorry for… this time?” Megatron began, coming to the edge of the berth warily.

Starscream shivered.  Without lifting his helm, he said “I criticized the mission,” he said muffled.

Megatron arced an optic ridge at Soundwave.  The tape-deck looked confused still, but then lifted his helm in understanding.  “Starscream: Suggestion, full survey before descending in Europa.”

Megatron’s optics blazed in triumph and smiled malevolently.  “Do you deserve punishment, Starscream?” he asked, petting the top of the seeker’s helm.

The seeker whimpered.  “It was an outburst, my lord. A foolish outburst.”

“Answer the question.”

Starscream hesitated and his fans whirred as he desperately thought on how to answer.  What was the right answer?  What did Megatron want to hear?  What was the next move in this sick, twisted game they were playing? He didn’t understand the rules!

“I…” he started, not sure what words were going to come out of his mouth.  “Yes,” he whispered.

“Very good, Starscream.  You are learning.” The gunformer sat.  “Now it is my desire to commute your punishment, as is my right as your leader.”

“…thank you, lord,” Starscream said.

“Soundwave, thank you, that will be all.  You are relieved.” 

“Acknowledged Lord Megatron.”  Soundwave stood to leave and had to maneuver around Starscream to remove himself from the berth.  He laid a gentle servo on the seeker’s arm and gave a gentle squeeze.

Starscream stirred and lifted his helm up, not sure how to take the gesture.  Was that… support?  Apology?  He looked up and watched the telepath leave.

Things were so confusing right now.

Megatron had picked up his map and was reviewing it at the end of the berth.  “Excellent work, Starscream.  This will help us immensely.”

The seeker nodded slowly; his faceplate still knitted in concern.  This praise felt… hollow somehow.  Different than when Soundwave had said the same thing.  “It isn’t perfect,” he said quietly.

Megatron raised an optic-ridge.  “Well I look forward to you perfecting it.”


“Ah, Soundwave, deciding to slum it with the rest of us!” the Stunticon Drag Strip said, waving from a table in the mess with Breakdown, Wildrider, and Dead End.  There were some Constructicons also in the mess, murmuring over their energon.

Soundwave had returned to the mess hall to collect his cassettes, not really to interact with the other soldiers.  He also wasn’t really in the mood.  The whole thing with Starscream had been… disturbing? Unsettling?  Interesting?  And he just wanted to brood over it, not fake congeniality with the crew.

He also wanted to get back to his audio scanning.  He had heard something that he couldn't quite picture and wanted more time to analyze it.

He nodded at Drag Strip once in acknowledgement.  Then continued to the table where his cassettes were.

“Query: Not returned to quarters? Cassettes spent hours in mess,” he commented as he sat down with them.

Frenzy shrugged as he watched the Stunticons settle back down after barely being acknowledged by the tape-deck.  “Didn’t feel like it, boss,” he said.

Rumble nodded.  “We were bored; just felt like bot-watching.”

“Repeat: Bot-watching.”

“Yeah you know, like people-watching, only we watch the other ‘cons.  Just seeing what they are talking about, that kind of thing.”

Soundwave refrained from rolling his optics.  “Caution,” he said.  “Decepticons: Irritable.”  The last thing he needed was for the other bots to think that the cassettes were purposely spying on the crew in close quarters.  Rumble and Frenzy had their uses, but he used Laserbeak for spying more often for a reason.

Frenzy pulled his gaze from the Stunticons.  “When aren’t they irritable,” he gruffed.  “Speaking of irritable, how’s the Air Commander?”

“Oh leave him alone,” Rumble said rolling his eyes.

“What are you now, his mascot?  Gives you a little bit of sweet words with his glossa and now you’re his little pet?”

Rumble faceplate looked like it heated, but the little bot shook with fury.  “I dunno what he did to you, Frenzy, but would it kill you to leave him alone?  He’s slagged out of his processor with fear.”

“Ever heard of this human concept called Karma?  Yeah well.”

“You wouldn’t say that if you saw what it was doing to him.” Rumble paused and flicked his optics to Soundwave, and then sighed.  Soundwave could feel his cassette debating with going further but decided against it.  “Whatever,” the cassette finished.

Soundwave hummed, which actively soothed them and calmed their bickering.  That was when he noticed the room had started to get louder.

Stunticons Drag Strip and Wildrider were arguing with Constructicons Bonecrusher and Mixmaster about something; looked like it was about how many rations each team was getting.  There was a lot of pointing, gesticulating, and overall discontent.  Other Decepticons in the room started to egg them on and throw in their own insults.

It seems Starscream wasn’t the only irritable one.

Soundwave did outrank the entire room, but he didn’t see the need to step in yet.  Decepticons enjoyed beating the slag out of each other, and Megatron nearly encouraged it.  Said it built character. 

Highly inefficient, but he wasn’t one to criticize.

It seemed the leaders of the respective groups were not present; Motormaster and Scrapper were likely on duty, so unfortunately the likelihood of a peaceful stand down was looking less and less likely by the klik.  Soundwave gleaned a lot of hateful thoughts of resentment from the crewmen, and not just the four who looked like they were about to come to blows.  When he felt someone decide they wanted to murder one of their fellow soldiers, the telepath stood up, picked up an energon cube and smashed it on the ground.

Everyone froze and turned to face the third-in-command, their optics wary.  They had almost forgotten that he was still in there, but now they could feel the blue tape-deck stare them down from behind his visor.

“Disperse.”

The Stunticons wisely turned on their pedes and left, without saying much else.  Other bots left, grumbling slightly, but otherwise the fight had been averted.  Soundwave was slightly troubled that they had skipped beating each other senseless and had jumped right to thinking about murdering.  Over rations.­

He was looking forward to writing the report.  He just wished he had a seeker to cuddle afterward.



Starscream was still puzzling over what had just happened.  He had said something so off-handedly, like he always did, and it wasn’t even that bad.  But Soundwave had seemed like he was discussing his punishment with Megatron.  It was the same thing that had happened before when they tried to take him to the sonar room, only this time, Megatron had been merciful?

His helm ached.  He felt like he had been dealt a great blow to his pride somehow here, but he didn’t have the processor capacity to figure it out.  Things felt fuzzy and confusing.

And Megatron acting all smug was a big clue.  And if Megatron was happy, then surely Starscream should be unhappy.  This was how things were.

Starscream was pretending to make more edits to the map, but it allowed him to think without Megatron thinking he was plotting.  He would randomly tap on a debris piece occasionally and then look to his datapad without actually reading what was on the screen.

Megatron was reading reports from crew members.  There had been more reportings of fights breaking out between teams, and a general uneasiness had settling across the crew.  Also, engine one’s output was giving off anomalous readings; Motormaster had been complaining about lag or something.  He’d have to assign a crew to fix it.  Actually, Soundwave could do that.

He turned to his second who looked like he was concentrating awfully hard on the map.  He hadn’t said one sarcastic remark since Soundwave had left.  In fact, he had said very little indeed.  Megatron wondered if this was real progress he was seeing or just a fluke; he couldn’t be totally sure when it came to his wayward seeker.

He wanted to touch him.  The proximity they had shared recently had made him grow fond of the warm plating, and the neediness of the seeker.  He was such an interesting creature when he wasn’t all shrieks and null-rays.  He was unabashedly emotional, cunning (though not as much as he thought), and quite ruthless when it came to destroying Autobots.  Only Soundwave was on the same level of cruelty.  He found some of these things… endearing.

Starscream shifted slightly so that his arm was touching Megatron’s arm beside him.  The warlord relished the contact.

“Lord Megatron,” said the seeker. 

“Yes?”

“What punishment were you and Soundwave discussing for me?”

Megatron hesitated.  Lying came easily to him, but he had been in such a good mood he hadn’t really prepared for this question.

“…Why do you ask?”

Starscream turned, optics glowing.  He looked upset.  Megatron drank in every detail of his second who was being tamed before his eyes and was just now realizing it.

“…Soundwave never told you, did he? Over comms.”

Megatron saw that he didn’t need to lie after all.  Starscream turned away and stared at the map beneath him, looking bereft.

“You’ve never had much control over your glossa, Starscream.  A little bit of fear will help you keep it in check.”  He voice was calm, gentle even.

Starscream shivered.  “But I was right.  I told you before we got here that a survey would have been better for the mission.  You beat me for it.”

Megatron frowned.  “You might have said something like that along with a bunch of other self-important, treacherous nonsense as I recall,” Megatron replied. 

Starscream turned to him.  “But I was RIGHT.  A survey would have prevented us hitting the debris and avoided having to wake me up.  And I allowed you two to make me think I had done something wrong.”

“You are always wrong if you go against my will!” Megatron said, raising his voice.

Starscream shut his mouth and turned away.  He could barely contain his anger.  Most of it was directed at the warlord, but some of it was directed at himself.  He was losing himself. 

“You used to want me criticize.  To help find flaws and fix them!”

Megatron shook with anger, and turned on his second, grabbing him by the throat.  “But then you stopped fixing and started being the flaw!” 

Starscream’s once mellow optics were now hateful pits of spite.  They sat there for a few moments, both of them whirring their vents.  Starscream then replied, “Then get rid of me, and stop this stupid game.”

Megatron released him, disappointment radiating off his field.  “…I have tried,” he said quietly.  “But you keep coming back.”

He pinged Soundwave that he thought Starscream needed another change of scenery and they waited there in silence for the tape-deck to arrive and collect the bristling seeker.

 

Chapter Text

Starscream was in a hateful mood when Soundwave arrived at Megatron’s quarters.  He didn’t know what had been said or what had happened, but it seemed Starscream had regressed back to his normal, prickly ways.  Megatron, at the first sign of failure, was about to kill something.

Megatron had to learn to be more patient.  With most things, the warlord was very patient.  He had created their faction from whispers and anger, and lovingly stoked a burning rage for eons.  The first sign that his experiment was not going his way, he was abandoning reason.  Starscream held the distinction of being the most chaotic element to Megatron’s army, and no one reacted correctly when the seeker was around.

Even Soundwave now felt infected.  Now, as they walked to Soundwave’s quarters, the seeker radiated hot, burning fury and wanted to talk and complain, and all Soundwave wanted to do was watch him.

“He said I was the flaw in the army!  That he’s been trying to get rid of me for eons, but that I keep coming back!  He’s so positively infuriating and hypocritical, I can’t believe he’s held power for this long-“ the seeker abruptly stopped himself and looked at Soundwave beside him.

“I… I forgot who I was talking to.”

Yes.  But don’t stop talking.

“Starscream: Venting,” he replied.  “Important for mental health.”

Starscream looked confused for a moment, as his anger was slowly replaced with woe.  “I am going to be punished this time,” he said morosely. 

Soundwave put a servo on the second, “Unclear,” he said as they reached his quarters.  “No punishment scheduled currently.”

That made the seeker visibly brighten, and Soundwave felt a surge in his spark.  He was infected, for sure.  He would have to see if he had picked up some kind of virus, as there was no way he would be happy that Starscream was happy.  He was a force of danger and inefficiency in the army, he was far too loud and narcissistic!  He delighted in subverting Megatron.  In fact, he belonged to- 

“Soundwave? Are you alright?” 

They had reached his quarters.  He wasn’t sure how long he had been standing there, at the threshold, without going in.

Starscream was looking at him.  Actually looking. His optics darted around his faceplate, trying to read his inscrutable face.  There was a reason he wore a visor and a facemask, just for this occasion.  They were still just waiting.

Starscream was being patient with him.  The brightly-colored seeker said nothing for a few more moments, and then reached out a servo and placed it on the shoulder of the other mech.  “Soundwave, did you stall?”  Soundwave flinched.

Why was this happening?  Why were all these thoughts suddenly overwhelming him?  What had changed-

Oh.  Those damned thoughts he had stolen a peak at.

There had not been many telepaths on Cybertron.  Megatron collected interesting and rare soldiers like they were like jewels in a cold steel crown; a pre-war seeker-scientist, a teleporting seeker, a telepathic tape-deck- all had been added without much care about how they fit.  Soundwave had developed and cultivated his abilities on his own without being trained by a master, and while some mechs were easier to read than others, Soundwave was used to being in absolute control.

But now it seemed the thoughts he was used to reading had invaded his side of the connection. 

His mind swam with all the risks he had taken recently.  Touching the seeker while he had his servos pinned, holding him close while the sub had descended, actually enjoying holding the seeker and feeling the flutter of his spark against his frame; all of these things he had relished and had done towards domination in the name of the warlord.  He was terrified that he wanted more than just to have the seeker be subservient to Megatron.  He wanted the seeker to be his.

Finally, he opened the door to his quarters and allowed Starscream to enter first.

The seeker looked nervous.  Likely paranoid again that he was going to hurt or torture him.  He somewhat wished he would just do that, at least then the possibility of… something would be closed again.  Right now the air was rife with anticipation. 

“Doubtless your cassettes will be displeased I’m crowding your quarters,” Starscream said, sitting at the edge of the berth.  He put his hands behind him and leaned back as he crossed his legs.  “It seems Megatron is tiring of this game he’s playing at my expense,” he said.  His words sounded bitter, but his faceplate looked… disappointed.  Why was he double-speaking?  Did he want Megatron to be done with him, or not?

He felt himself gently poke at Starscream’s mind.  It had been unintentional, and he quickly receded back, silently cursing himself.  What was he doing?!  He didn’t need to pry.  The fact that it had been unconscious unnerved him.  His fans were whirring in anger.

Starscream looked at him with those optics again.  “Soundwave… are you sure you are alright?”

No, I’m not.  I want to possess you.

“Affirmative,” he replied.  Starscream furrowed his brow.

“I… understand I was mistaken about what happened earlier.  About you tattling to Megatron about me. I realize now that you were just distracted,” the seeker said, awkwardly.  He was searching for an explanation as to why Soundwave was behaving oddly.  He was blaming his own behavior for Soundwave’s in ability to pay attention and control himself.  This beautiful creature who had such lovely thoughts, was thinking about him, and was almost… apologizing…

He felt the tendrils of his mind reach out again to Starscream’s.  This time the seeker noticed.

“Hey.  HEY, what are you doing?!” Starscream said, leaning back.

“I-I’m sorry-“ Soundwave said, attempting to pull back. His monotone sounded strangled; less formal and without most of the synthetic reverb that was often part of his vocalizations.  Starscream looked so frightened and betrayed, his optics wide as he put a servo to his helm.  He was beautiful.

Soundwave felt himself going to the berth and advance on the seeker, putting his forehead to Starscream’s.  The seeker laid back, looking absolutely petrified as Soundwave’s mind quickly defeated all of the buffers Starscream attempted to put up.  Having already defeated them previously, he could not stand against him, but Soundwave closed his optics to try and slow down.  The seeker’s mind was still in turmoil from his claustrophobia, his confusing interactions with Megatron, and at the oddly aggressive behavior of the third.  The tape-deck was apologizing and straining to stop his mind, and to his own terror, he could not.

He opened his optics and tried to say something, tell the seeker he didn’t mean to assault his mind.  It was if having tasted something of it before, his mind was now ravenous for the seeker.  I want you.

Starscream’s expression was a little pained but was rapidly softening.  He was slowly relaxing under the tape-deck, and Soundwave felt his mind opening freely.  He felt a servo reach up and pet his helm softly.  “You could have just asked,” he said quietly.

To Soundwave’s shock, he felt that Starscream’s field was radiating an invitation.  Suggestion.  And to his horror, he realized that his own field was dripping with lust.  He closed his optics and whirred his vents, trying to relax but had a hard time of it.

His powerful mind began to relax having reached its desired location, swimming gently in the eddies of Starscream’s mind.  He was able to swim gently around Starscream’s thoughts, as he felt extreme shame and disappointment in himself for losing control.

Starscream’s thoughts were beautiful in their complexity, heavily layered like scents in a perfume.  He found notes of surprise, relief, and a little bit of… smarminess?  Smugness?  Soundwave couldn’t stop the query from tumbling through the connection.

“I knew you were interested, you idiot.  Leave it to you to make a mess of it though.”

He was floating, unbound, confused and… ecstatic.  He was slowly gaining back control and retreating from Starscream’s mind and he pulled away, holding his own helm.

“You’d think you’d never had a boner before,” Starscream joked, massaging his own temples as he felt the presence of the telepath fade. 

Soundwave sat at the edge of the berth facing away from the seeker not saying anything, still processing everything.  He felt both elation and disgust.  This wasn’t real.  It was a contrived situation that had conceived a contrived outcome.  Starscream didn’t actually desire this; at best, the seeker was conditioned to seek comfort from him and this was its natural progression, but at worst the seeker planned to use this as some kind of escape or payback.

He wondered if he should indulge for either reason.  He likely would not get another chance.  Did he care about the moral implications?

He stole a peak at the seeker behind him, and he wish he hadn’t.  Starscream was laying down on his side with his helm supported on his arm, watching him with an amused look on his faceplate.  “I’m enjoying this struggle you are having.”

“Apologies,” Soundwave said finally.  “I… should not have done that in your state.”

“In my state,” Starscream repeated.  “You mean where I have absolutely no agency and are at your complete mercy?  That state?”  He sounded angry, but he was still smirking.  His words did match his looks.

“I… You are… compromised,” he said the last word.  “Your… willingness to… result of conditioning.”

Starscream tilted his head.  Soundwave felt anger radiate in waves from the seeker, but it seemed to be more of the frustrated kind and less of the burning hatred he had been feeling for the past couple of days since this all started.  “So, why aren’t you continuing?” the seeker replied.

Soundwave felt himself pull back in confusion.

“You are a Decepticon.  You have desires, and you have the means to take what you want.  What is stopping you?”

Soundwave felt a slight burst of anger in his spark.  “Am I not allowed to want something real from you for once?”

The seeker seemed stunned for a moment.  Many emotions played across his face, and only some of them he recognized.  Starscream’s optics narrowed, but he had a smirk. “Am I not to have any decisions of my own anymore, whatsoever then?  I think you can allow me to return your affection, even if the circumstances are not ideal.  You owe me that much.”  Starscream face softened a bit.  “Are you honestly saying you only want me in a real setting?  As in, only if I truly want you back?”  The seeker had begun to sit up.  “Because that is one of the most attractive things I have ever heard.”

Soundwave was growing tired.  This banter was not his forte, and Starscream was running circles around him.  “How could you possibly desire this… intimacy?  You are being forcefully molded to his will!  And I am willing to participate because I am loyal.  I… am not allowed to have these desires for you.”

Starscream froze.  “Why not?” he said.  But the look on his faceplate showed that he already knew the answer.  Soundwave left it as rhetorical.

The seeker narrowed his optics again then leaned forward and crawled toward him on the berth.  The seeker placed a servo on Soundwave’s facemask and gently removed it and threw it behind him on the ground.  He was so close that Soundwave could hear the tiny mechanical movements of his optics.  Starscream moved so that their noses were touching and just vented quietly, looking at Soundwave’s visor.  “Then be treacherous with me.”

There was no going back now. 

Soundwave made a deep, throaty noise and pushed his lips into Starscream’s.  He felt his spark pounding in his chest, and it felt unquenchable.  Starscream lightly grabbed his servo to encouraged it to explore more interesting parts of the seeker’s frame.  The seeker smiled, pulling out of the kiss, his optics dancing in playfulness. “Quite bold of you, third-in-command.  I knew you were jealous that my attentions were elsewhere,” he said squeezing the frame beneath him as he straddled Soundwave.

The tape-deck huffed his vents and hungrily started to give Starscream’s neglected neck more attention.  “I am often jealous of you, second-in-command,” he said between kisses.  Starscream made some noises of appreciation as his vents increased.

“Tell me more about this jealousy,” he practically purred as he gently gave encouragement to the mech’s helm, petting it. 

“I am covetous of your power,” the tape-deck said, “and I am envious of your abilities in the air.”  He could feel Starscream’s intakes hitch. The telepath gently traced a digit over the back of said wings, delighting in how they moved under his hands like they had a mind of their own.  How long had he wanted to feel these wings in this context?  “Your frame is exquisite, and I am jealous of how mechs look at you,” he said as Starscream began to kiss his neck in return.

Starscream was back on his lips, kissing deeply and hungrily.  Soundwave felt the seeker pull him on top as they sank into the berth, and the tape-deck felt a deep heat blossom on his faceplates.

He could feel the flutter of his own spark as Starscream sucked his lips then biting them like the treacherous glitch he was.  Soundwave returned in kind, biting the seeker’s neck and licking with his glossa when he got a moan for his efforts.  He felt Starscream reach down and click open some panels, and vented quickly when his own panels opened as well.

He sank into the pleasures the seeker was offering him.  Starscream was clearly more experienced, but he was also patient and vocal to guide him so that they could properly please one another.  He gained confidence as Starscream started to say less and less and made more breathy gasps as punctuation to his affections.  His breathing was rapid, and even during the smallest of movements he made plaintive cries for Soundwave that increased his need to have the seeker deeper. 

Starscream felt his turbulent mind undone by the telepath gently prodding in again, and he allowed it.  He felt the gentle and graceful telepath soak in his mind, warmed by the comforting thoughts. The mixes of emotions and thoughts tumbled back and forth across the connection, accentuating the same stimulation their frames felt between each other.  Starscream had been used to more aggressive lovers wanting just to take and dominate; Soundwave was nothing of the sort.  He clearly wanted to possess but in the most adorably domestic way.

It was lovely.

Overload came to Soundwave first and it surprised him so that he lost his composure for a moment, venting heavily against the chassis of the seeker.  Starscream pet his helm with affection, but then encouraged him to continue so that he might join him in the bliss. After regaining his breath eagerly made sure that Starscream joined him.  The sounds he made were delights to his audios.  He rolled to the side of the seeker and stared up at the ceiling with his arms above him.  Soundwave fought off a creeping recharge as the seeker kissed the side of his helm, murmuring soft words of kindness and compliments into his audios.

“I’m glad you were convinced,” he said, laughing lightly.  A beautiful sound that Soundwave didn’t often hear.

“I never imagined you could be so sweet,” he said draping an arm around to pull the seeker closer.  “You would never have allowed this on the Nemesis.”

Starscream also felt the warm embrace of recharge calling to him, but Soundwave’s statement did strike him.  He absolutely would have not allowed this on the Nemesis.  He would have derisively sneered at the mech, and publicly shamed him for ever daring to want to interface with him.  But he hadn’t always been that way.  He had been less of a prickly son of a glitch once.  And this had been an enjoyable way to pass the evening.

Soundwave couldn’t help but glean the thoughts that were swirling in his lover’s mind, and he felt so accomplished.  He gently turned to face the seeker and kissed him on his forehead, as he saw his optics were starting to dim.  “Your mind is still open, Starscream, you might want to put your buffers back.”

Starscream nodded and closed the doors to his mind and drifted off to a deep recharge.  Soundwave sighed and then searched for his facemask, reapplying it.

He quietly commed Megatron.

Lord Megatron: Starscream now recharging.

Silence.  Then, “We will need to double our efforts to undo this setback.”

Soundwave looked over at the serene look of the quietly sleeping seeker.  He felt his spark sink.  “I… can attempt to work with him more if you wish.”

Another pause.  “No, bring him back to my quarters when he wakes.  I will need to investigate what more needs to be done to tame him.”

Soundwave felt the connection break as the seeker pulled closer to him, seeking his cool plating for comfort.

 

Chapter Text

Soundwave still was recharging beside him, though Starscream had noticed he had reinstated his mouthplate much to the seeker’s displeasure.  The mouthplate effectively stopped him from waking up the telepath how he wanted to.

Starscream rolled onto his back, stretching in the berth.  He felt some thought processes start that he’d rather not think about yet, he just didn’t feel like it.  Things in his mind felt jagged when he thought too hard, like gears grinding on glass.  But the thoughts still pulled at him.  His optics glanced at the profile of Soundwave and many conflicting feelings arose.

First, the traditional ones of loathing.  This was familiar.  The tape-deck was his foil in almost every way, and it rankled him that he was considered to be more competent and would possibly be more fit to be second-in-command than he. He’d heard the rumors plenty of times, and even the occasional insult thrown directly in his face.  Megatron trusted him to be loyal, and Starscream was mostly trusted to be disloyal.

And the rage and humiliation were still there as well.  The tape-deck had not only participated and encouraged Megatron’s stupid experiment thus far but had furthered it with ideas of his own.  He had been taken advantage of in the worst possible state, manipulated into their arms and by their sides in the berth.  They tormented him and delighted in his suffering.

And yet.  There was a modicum of fondness in their touches, in their comforting.  It spoke of something closer than just what the situation had designed on them; they had been fighting by each other’s side for millions of years at this point.  Besides his trine, he did spend the most time with Megatron and Soundwave.  The environment had taken away his usual ability to push them away, and now that they weren’t being turned off by his personality, they seemed to… actually want his company?

But Soundwave had been right.  Could he trust any feelings of affection he might have for them?  Could he trust his own mind?  He had almost lost himself before, feeling like he couldn’t grip his personality anymore.  His mind felt raw, probably from Soundwave running around in it so often lately, but also because he was being mentally beaten into submission, wanting to be embraced by the very bots he… hated.  Right?  He hated them?

Nothing could distill his thoughts to hate faster than thinking of Megatron.  Soundwave, he could almost forgive.  The tape-deck was disgustingly loyal to a fault and often to self-sacrifice.  He probably hadn’t realized how their closeness had galvanized certain feelings if his little loss of control before was any indication.  No, Soundwave he could spare from revenge.  He had enjoyed this dalliance and the desires they had just shared and it would be thought of as fondly.

But Megatron would not be spared.  Megatron didn’t care if his processor was permanently damaged from all of this; he didn’t understand him or want to.  The warlord had mocked him before by implying that he should warm his berth which made this whole exercise even more humiliating.  Megatron enjoyed beating him, enjoyed throwing him away, enjoyed insulting him: none of this should surprise him.  He clenched his fists in annoyance wishing that Megatron would just…

He closed his optics as the sub made its usual noises of descent and condensing metal, and his venting increased.  On a whim, he attempted to stay still and calm himself through the panic rather than reach out for help from Soundwave.  It was always the sound that brought him to this state.

Maybe he could convince Soundwave that he could get more sexual favors if he put him back to sleep.

Ah.  There it was.  The disgusting, treacherous thought came unbidden to his helm and he frowned.  He wasn’t above it, he knew.  He would gladly slump lower into the depths of that depravity if it meant that he could achieve his goals.  No, he was disappointed with himself because he was taking something that had been genuinely… kind from all of this and attempting to sabotage it.

Did it matter?  He desired power and leadership and… glory.  Nothing else should matter.  But he wasn’t going to be able to get what he wanted if his processor never worked right again.  If Megatron’s plan succeeded, Starscream would be more broken than the warlord realized.

His helm ached and he shivered, feeling the panic increase despite trying to think about anything else.  He pushed the heels of his servos into his optics, trying to force himself to calm down.  He felt his mouth twist into a grimace as he started to lose the fight.  But then he felt Soundwave stir and come to him, wrapping his arm around his chassis and putting his helm up against his neck.

“You are alright,” he murmured.  “You can survive it.”

Starscream felt his optics well with liquid under his servos.  A small sob came out of his vocalizer.  “Don’t start being kind to me now,” he said laughing a little.  “Gives a mech the wrong idea.”

Soundwave just pulled him closer and hold him will the fit passed.  Eventually Starscream felt himself relax and let his servos down from his optics to rest on Soundwave, returning the embrace.

“Do you regret it?” the tape-deck asked.

“No.  No I don’t,” Starscream replied quickly and with confidence.  “I just feel like… I’m running out of time before I’m ruined, Soundwave.”

Soundwave froze and laid there in silence for a few moments before getting up to look at the seeker.  If Megatron were here, he would tell the seeker that he was being dramatic.  That acting more obedient was not a ruination, it was an improvement.  But Soundwave had been swimming in that mind recently and knew that the seekers fears were well-founded.

“I am to return you to Megatron’s quarters,” he said.  It felt like betrayal, but he was getting used to that feeling.

Starscream dropped his servos to his side and just stared at the ceiling with a tired look on his face.  He had shown vulnerability and now Soundwave was punishing him for it.

“But I will work on a way to stop this," the tape-deck finished.

Starscream closed his optics, trying not to allow hope into his spark.  He nodded.

“Cassettes: Off-duty. Returning to quarters soon.”  He held out a servo to Starscream to help him up out of the berth.

“Oh letting them on duty without you?  How liberating you are,” he said, forced. 

Soundwave pulled the seeker to him.  “I hope so.”


“Oh yeah and so Soundwave just told him to ‘relax’ and the mech just shut up and sat there like frightened sparkling!” Frenzy said.  He was inside a bulkhead in the engine room with Stunticons Drag Strip and Wildrider holding the panel that he had crawled behind.  Frenzy had gotten a lot of duties fixing those hard-to-reach places that the bigger mechs had no ability to reach.  The two Stunticons and cassette were attempting to diagnose engine #1 for any defects, as Motormaster had explained that the thing seemed to be lagging to his controls.

“There’s no way ‘Screamer just… obeyed Soundwave like that. You’re just fragging with us.”  Drag Strip shook his head in disbelief.  “We heard he’s super glitched because of being awake and being claustrophobic, but there is no way he’s that docile.”

“I’m tellin’ ya, I was able to touch his wing and I’m still here!” Frenzy called from behind.

The two Stunticons who held the panel shared a look of surprise and then it turned into shared smirks.

“Where is the good ‘ole second-in-command, anyway? I didn’t think any of the seekers even got quarters since they were supposed to be asleep,” Wildrider asked lifting an optic ridge to Drag Strip.

Frenzy pulled out a datapad and kept analyzing the control wires in the bulkhead for any shorts.  “I think he’s in Soundwave’s quarters.  Could be in Megatron’s.  Not sure.”

Frenzy: shift complete.  Return to quarters.”

Got it, boss.”  Frenzy moved to get out of the bulkhead.  “Guess my time’s up boys.  Didn’t see nothin’ in there that would cause-“

The panel had been replaced back, and he heard them screwing the panels back on the side.

“Ha! Very funny.  But not. I gotta go or Soundwave’s gonna be pissed.”

Only silence was on the other side.

“Guys?”


Soundwave silently wished he hadn’t told Starscream to reinstate his mental buffers.  He wanted to get back into that mind and pour through everything again, trying to see if he could find a way to help him without disobeying Megatron.

Again.  Disobeying again.

The order had been given so long ago, back on Cybertron amidst the acid rain and choking air of Kaon.  Starscream as a disgraced scientist had wanted to sign up for the Decepticons, and Megatron had appraisingly thought that he should be given the opportunity to prove himself as a low-ranking officer.  Starscream had relished the opportunity, though made no secret about his desires to be higher ranking.

Soundwave had said he found the seeker intriguing.

And Megatron, who didn’t see the need to punch subordinates he found acting against his wishes back then, had merely turned his head to Soundwave and said simply, “The seeker is mine.”

Soundwave had understood.  He had left the seeker alone.  But now he believed he did not understand at all.

Ah boss, I think I might have messed up,” came a comm.  Soundwave froze in the hallway, drawing a curious look from the seeker he traveled with. 

“Frenzy: Explain.”

“Yeah Wildrider and Drag Strip asked me a bunch of questions about Starscream and then asked me where he was.  Then they shut the panel back up with me still in the bulkhead. I’m okay, just… stuck.”

Soundwave’s visor flashed in anger, but then looked to Starscream.  “Frenzy: Will be there soon.  Stay put.

Not like I have a choice boss, but whatever you say. And uh… sorry.”

“Something wrong?” Starscream asked as he saw the communication end and the visor resume its usual brightness.

“Situation: Normal,” he said, though it was anything but.  Megatron’s quarters were at the other end of the ship from the engine room.  Starscream couldn’t be left alone, but Frenzy was potentially in danger from the other two mechs who had been causing quite a bit more trouble as of late in the mess hall and in the hallways, picking fights.  He should have known better than to allow his cassette on the same duty roster; he had overestimated his own ability to intimidate into subordination.  He had purposely separated the Stunticons and Constructicons from similar duties after the mess hall incident earlier, and he had hoped that his cassettes would be good substitutes.

He couldn’t help but feel this might be a trap.

But his delay had cost him.  At the end of the corridor Drag Strip and Wildrider had cut them off from Megatron’s quarters and were quickly making their way towards them.  They must have sprinted on a lower deck to get between them and their destination.  Their minds being weaker, the telepath knew immediately what they intended.

“Starscream: Get behind me,” he said in a dangerously low monotone.  Starscream looked and saw the mechs approaching but didn’t obey Soundwave.  He just sneered. 

“What do you two aft-heads want?” the seeker said angrily and with practiced irritation.

The Stunticons both slowed their walks temporarily as Starscream was not nearly as… pliant as they had thought he would be.  And Soundwave acting protective… that was also not expected.  But, it was also two mechs against one and maybe a half?  Those odds were worth it. 

The strong rule in the Decepticon ranks. 

“Hey Starscream, we heard you weren’t feeling too hot down here! Maybe we could help,” leered Drag Strip as he took point and made for the seeker. 

Without fanfare, Soundwave stepped forward and threw a punch at him which Drag Strip barely dodged, but he lost his balanced had to brace against the wall.  He was surprised the tape-deck was getting involved.  Wildrider was able to sidestep their engagement and get directly in Starscream’s face.

“Hey, sweetheart, what beautiful wings you have there,” said the Stunticon as he reached out a servo to touch said wings.

To the mech’s surprise, Starscream stepped forward to close the distance between them, their noses practically touching.  He was able to bat away the servo that had reached for him as the seeker’s other servo throttled the Ferrari-alt in the neck and choked him into the wall.  “Thank you for noticing, Wildrider!” he snarled.  “I take great pride in them to let a stupid glitch like you touch them!” he shrieked as he angrily punched his captive mech in the chassis.

The look of surprise on the Stunticon was worth it.  But then a blow came to the back of the seeker’s helm, and maybe it wasn’t worth it at all.Drag Strip punched him in the back of the helm and then the side, stunning Starscream and he felt his hold slacken on Wildrider.

Soundwave had managed to get up to his knees and do a low kick, making Drag Strip lose his footing and fall. The tape-deck stood, wiping energon that was dripping off his chin from the punch as he had taken an obvious hit to the face.

Wildrider had recovered though and had grabbed hold of Starscream’s arm and was pulling it up behind his back painfully and pushing his faceplate into the panels of the corridor.  He was saying something into Starscream’s audios which made the seeker more incensed than he already was.  Starscream snarled in protest. He tried to twist in the grasp but winced when he was pushed further into the wall.

Soundwave’s visor flashed as he stepped forward and gave the Wildrider a flurry of punches to the back but the Stunticon was still holding on to the seeker.  Unfortunately, Drag Strip managed to grab his pede and pull, and the tape-deck fell hard against the deck.

Then the sub groaned at the ever-increasing depth.

The seeker froze.  He couldn’t help it.  Millennia of programming told him that he was in imminent, terrible danger and he had to remove himself from the small space immediately.  But he knew there was no escape.

Oh… It does affect you, huh? And here I thought the little twerp Frenzy had lied to us…” Wildrider said huskily.  He touched the seeker’s wings with obvious enjoyment as the seeker he had captured stifled a whimper.  The Ferrari-alt lowered his faceplate onto the back of Starscream’s neck and purred.  “You really are something, Star.  I think we might bring you back to our quarters so that you can warm our berth for a change,” he said, leaning hard against the seeker for emphasis.

Starscream leaned forward, trying to steady his breathing as his forehead touched the bulkhead.  The mech behind him took this as a positive sign that they were winning and Starscream would go quietly.  They knew Starscream would put up a little bit of a fight, but that was in part what made the idea fun.

Starscream whipped his helm back, striking Wildrider right in the faceplate.  The seeker felt the hold slacken and he whipped around with a kick, knocking the other mech off him.  With a screech of rage, he fell on top of him, punching the Stunticon’s already wounded faceplate without mercy.

Soundwave too was faring better as he had Drag Strip now in a stranglehold.  He felt the Stunticon flail in his grip, but he just gripped tighter, wishing he had the strength to decapitate the mech.

Wildrider had managed a lucky break and his arms had gotten free from Starscream. He could threw the crazed seeker off of him into the bulkhead.  The back of Starscream’s helm hard hit against the wall and it had clearly stunned and hurt him if the loud crack had been any indication.  Wildrider’s faceplate was quite dented, but now he was just angry.  He crawled over to Starscream and straddled him around the waist with his legs and wrapped a servo around the seeker’s neck.  They locked optics for a moment, when Starscream’s red optics grew wide with surprise.

Wildrider was stopped suddenly by someone who had grabbed the back of his neck.  He whipped around to see the death-glare of Megatron himself.

Everyone froze for a moment and just stared, going quiet.  Megatron then threw the Stunticon’s entire frame into the panels of the bulkhead.  Wildrider groaned and then desperately tried to run away, but Megatron had grabbed him by the pede and pulled him back.  The warlord snarled, punching the recoiling mech beneath him.  He was angered that the mech seemed to not fight back.  He proceeded to punch methodically into the same place in his chassis until he started to hear his plating buckle.  This wasn’t the crazed punches of a frightened seeker.  They were the methodical punches of someone intending to murder.

In fear, Wildrider cried out when he felt his spark chamber get dented.  Still the punches continued, and Megatron’s face never wavered from the single-mindedness of death he was about to mete out on his subordinate.

Starscream was watching with tired optics as he vented quickly through the pain in his helm and his shivering frame.  Soundwave too watched but held on to the mech beneath him who was apologizing profusely and begging Soundwave to stop the warlord.  His cries of desperation for his fellow Stunticon should have been sweeter to his audios, but Soundwave did not relish in them.

Starscream grimaced.  “Megatron,” he said to no effect.  The onslaught continued.

“MEGATRON,” he said, but his vocalizer caught in a cough from the damage to his neck.

He then leaned forward to place a servo on the warlord’s arm.  Megatron hesitated and looked back to his second, and Starscream saw that the warlord was not with them.  He was in the pits of his former life, a gladiator killing a fellow combatant.  His optics were distant and slid over Starscream slowly, almost as if he didn’t recognize the seeker.

Starscream sighed and then slowly shook his helm, not breaking optic-contact with his leader.  Megatron looked down at the mech who was keening beneath him, his vocalizer breaking into static.  Tiny sparks arced over his chassis, and a glimpse of a spark could be seen beneath the damaged plating.  But… he was alive.  Megatron stood and regarded his servos that were covered in energon. He seemed slightly confused but said nothing as he rubbed his knuckles.  He turned to his second.  “Can you walk?” he said gruffly.

Starscream had felt the back of his helm and hissed when his servo came back with energon on it, but he nodded.  He felt the back of the wall and braced himself against it, sliding up to get to his pedes.  Megatron looked down at Wildrider who was crying now in relief, his vocalizer bubbling in pleas, asking for forgiveness.  The Decepticon leader roughly picked the soldier up who grimaced at the treatment but wisely said nothing. 

Soundwave released his captive who just sat there on his hands and knees, blubbering quietly.  The telepath commed Hook, telling him that they were inbound.  Soundwave then roughly got him up to his pedes and made him start walking.

 

Chapter Text

Attacks like these were not uncommon in the Decepticon ranks.  Everything was always about proving your worth and ability in combat, so if you couldn’t take it, it didn’t make sense for you to be here.  But attacking officers, unprovoked, was bold, if not foolish.  Megatron still wanted his army to be able to run effectively.

They walked quietly down to the med bay where the rest of the army slept in blissful recharge, stopping occasionally for the seeker and for Wildrider who was coming in and out of consciousness.  Luckily it seemed that the whole sub knew that something weird was going on, so they wisely stayed out of the hallways as the group made their way painfully down.

Soundwave could barely control his anger as he pushed Drag Strip forward in the back.  He desperately wanted to go to help Starscream who was limping next to Megatron.  He had even taken a step forward, only to be given a single devastating look from the warlord to stop.

He had failed to protect Megatron’s property.  Megatron was disappointed.  And he still didn’t know the status of Frenzy, which made him push Drag Strip even harder.

Hook saw the state of the officers and Stunticons and arced an eye-brow ridge, but merely fell into his work, checking everyone for damage.  He decided that Starscream, Soundwave, and Drag Strip would have to wait as Wildrider needed immediate emergency surgery.

Starscream sat at the edge of a berth, leaning forward and trying to stay conscious.  He looked around at the mechs: Megatron was staring distantly at nothing, Drag Strip was clearly trying to contact Motormaster on his comms, and Soundwave was tense and clenching his servo.  “Soundwave,” the seeker said.  “Go to your cassette,” he commanded gently.

Soundwave looked to Megatron, who nodded once.  Wasting no time, the mech turned and ran to the engine room.  Drag Strip sank deeper into his berth, remembering that they had left the little bot in a rather unfortunate state.  He gulped and just shut his optics, quivering.

Megatron looked to his second, fully evaluating the damage the fight had caused.  His lip was split, it looked like his shoulder had been popped out of sync with his frame, and his sides looked like they had taken a beating.  Looked like he had given more than he got though, at least before Megatron had arrived. He felt a swell of pride in his spark.

“What exactly happened?” he asked, trying to keep his vocalizer even.  He reached under the berth and pulled out a medical kit and set it beside Starscream.  He started to look for patches to stop the worrying leak that was dripping energon in the back of the seeker’s helm.

Starscream held his servo up to his helm for support.  “It seems that they discovered my condition and wanted to test it out for themselves,” he said flatly, giving an even glare to Drag Strip.  “Seems it was likely not worth it.”

“No, I suppose not.  Who threw the first punch?”

Starscream glanced sideways at his commander.  “Soundwave did, actually.  But they did something to Frenzy and were quite… intent on causing trouble.”

Megatron gently applied a staunching patch to the back of Starscream’s helm.  Starscream hissed quietly, but otherwise did not complain.  Megatron’s field still radiated murderous fury, and Starscream found himself attempting to reach the warlord with his own field, full of calm and assurances.  There had been a few times after battling the Autobots where they had been in this same position, he thought idly.  Megatron angrily repairing his second, Starscream trying to calm the warlord down.  But it had been a while.

Why did he stop Megatron from killing Wildrider?  Aside from the fact that they needed Menasor, and the other Stunticons would be a mess.  But the mechs had attacked him and said things into his audios that were disturbing, even for him.  Why not just let Megatron beat someone else to death for a change?  Starscream lifted his optics to Megatron’s, making contact.  He didn’t really have an answer.

Megatron turned then and went and stood by Drag Strip’s berth and whispered in exceptionally low tones.  Starscream could not make out what was said, but it was evident on the Stunticon’s face that his true punishment was still coming.  Starscream almost felt pity for him.

The seeker closed his optics and touched the side of his temple as a flash of pain welled deep in his processor.  His wings drooped low as he sat there, trying to think of anything other than passing out.  But then he was sliding off the berth, his frame going slack no matter how many commands he issued to remain upright.  As he fell, waiting to impact the ground he felt himself caught by a strong mech who gently laid him once more in the berth.  Megatron’s faceplate came in and out of focus as he grimaced and waited to slip into forced recharge.

He heard the worried questions and the voice slowly rising from the warlord, but Starscream couldn’t make it out what was being asked.  He did feel a servo cup his cheekplate with great gentleness, and he felt recharge wash over his systems.


Hook sighed in the dim light of the stasis chamber.  Wildrider had barely survived his damage, but he did manage to pull through.  Many thought that Megatron might have problems with the rest of the Stunticons wanting revenge for the near-death of their comrade as Motormaster was the one who taken up control of ship operations after Megatron and Soundwave, so he wielded more power than usual.  But they had been clearly disappointed by their fellows’ antics and distanced themselves as much as possible.

Hook didn’t waste too much anesthetic on Wildrider or Drag Strip, for what it was worth. The Constructions felt like the other combiners had been given too much leeway on the mission anyway, but he still patched them up as best he could under the circumstances.

Soundwave and Drag Strip had gotten away with what just amounted to normal brawl injuries.  A typical Decepticon Saturday after too much high-grade and bored, murderous mechs.

Starscream however was never to be outdone.

Hook had been emergency spark surgery when Starscream had slipped into unconsciousness.  Megatron had come into the surgery room, and was physically picking up the doctor up at this point to move him and help the downed second-in-command.  Hook yelled to get Scrapper to help him check on the seeker, otherwise he was going to lose the foolish Stunticon.  Scrapper had managed to convince Megatron that he could help and that Hook would be back to Starscream shortly.

Starscream had definitely arrived worse on the medical berth before, but the helm injury bothered him.  When Hook was finally able to look him over, he noted that the seeker’s processor was in a terrible state of fragmentation.  Defragging was reorganizing the data stored in a Cybertronian so that related pieces of data are put back together, all lined up in a continuous fashion.  Starscream’s data looked like the city-scape of old Iacon.  He had guessed that would happen, given how long he had been experiencing claustrophobia and who knows what kind of torture at the hands of Megatron.   

The helm injury though made things particularly difficult.  He would have just put the seeker back with his trine and said the Pit with it, but if he did that, then Starscream would not recover correctly.  He risked permanent processor impairment if he didn’t heal without sedative.  Explaining to Megatron was uncomfortable.

“You know that I am not ever one to judge you, Megatron,” Hook began as he kept typing away at the screens that monitored the seeker.  Megatron stood looking at his Air Commander still unconscious on the berth.  The other conscious inhabitants of the room had left some time ago.  “But you have created a situation here that I can’t fix right away.”

“…Will he be permanently damaged?”

Hook sighed.  “It’s hard to say.  He has one of the most resilient sparks I have ever seen, but his mind is such a fragile thing.  Seekers are not often brilliant and stable,” the Constructicon replied. He typed a few more commands at the console to start more tests.  “As it stands, I cannot put him back under stasis with the rest of the seekers until either his helm heals or we somehow find sky down here.”

Megatron looked over at the sleeping Wildrider.  Hook quickly moved between them, shielding the patient he had just spent hours saving from the wrath of his leader.  “I think we all are a little hot under the collar plating here, my lord.  Maybe we all have had a hand in this developing situation.” Hook was on thin ice and he knew it.  Still, he thought he would try.

The warlord’s face was impassive.  “How long will he need to stay here?”

“I will want to observe him for at least another day-cycle, but then he can return…”  Hook wasn’t really sure where the seeker could go after that.  Where had he been recharging?

“Acceptable.”  And with that the warlord left.


Megatron was angry.  He wasn’t really sure at what at this point though. 

Wildrider and Drag Strip were good candidates for his anger.  Insubordination.  Premeditating an attack on two officers and another soldier while on a mission.  Possibly permanently damaging one in the process.  Endangering said mission.

Soundwave had clearly been distracted.  He should have seen the monitors or known that this was brewing before it even began.  That’s why he had been elevated so high in the army.

It sounded like the cassette had some blame, but Megatron didn’t relish the thought of punishing the little mech and then worrying about Soundwave’s loyalty.

But Megatron had put them in this situation.  He had dragged them down here; a bunch of murderous, unstable mechs in close quarters and expected it to be easy.  He’d even pulled his treacherous Air Commander out of recharge and forced him to experience claustrophobia. Honestly, it would have likely been the quietest it has ever been in the Decepticon army had he just left him there.

Things were just different than how they used to be.

It had something to do with the Earth campaign.  Something about that planet rife with organic beings had brought some things about the war into focus for the gunformer.  Some things were welcome: the Autobots weren’t hiding in random places in the galaxy; there were some that were always ready for a fight along their established fronts on the planet.  There had been entire centuries were the war had been raged and literally nothing had happened because the two sides couldn’t even find each other.  Time seemed to dilate around Earth, and Megatron savored it.

But some things were not welcome.  Things were going at a breakneck speed.  Soldiers were more unruly.  More soldiers died and were even created than previous centuries.  And Starscream… well, he was the same, just more desperate.

The silver tyrant went back to his quarters and felt the emptiness in his berth. 


“I’m afraid I don’t have anything that will help your claustrophobia in the meantime,” Hook said, sitting on a stool next to his patient.  He had broken the news to the seeker that despite his desire, the sweet respite from his phobia was beyond his reach if he wanted to heal correctly.  Starscream had been remarkably quiet at the news.  Hook had expected denial, anger, bits of insubordinate complaints at least.  But no, the seeker had almost no reaction.

“Maybe a narcotic?  But that could make things worse for you,” the Constructicon added.

“Could I take the narcotic with me and save it for a rainy day?” The jet smirked, forced.

“Ha no, I can’t get a reputation for giving out drugs to the army… more than I already have one.”  Hook typed away some things for notes.  “You know, not really sure what is going on with this whole… thing... Somehow I feel responsible for not sticking up for your uh, mental health here.  I may be really good at surgical precision… very deft with my hands! But when it comes to psychological hurts, I’m afraid I don’t have much help to offer.  I’ve explained this much to Megatron as best I could.  It took a lot of effort for him not to drag you out of here, back to his quarters I guess.”

Hook paused and looked sideways at the Air Commander, seeing if he would get a reaction at all.  Starscream was listening but offered no comment.

“Again, I don’t really know what is happening between you two, and unfortunately I’m not in the position to argue against rough treatment even if I am your physician.”

Starscream had a small smirk on his lips.  “I never expected anything from you Hook.  No need to wring your servos over it.”

Hook nodded, nervously.  Something else was bothering him, and Starscream didn’t seem to be getting the hint.

“During my examination, I couldn’t help but notice you had engaged in some… intimate activities recently.  Now I’m not a therapist bot, and I am a Decepticon, but do you need…?”

Starscream’s optics went wide in realization and then could barely contain a deep laugh.  “I.. ahem I can assure you that was completely consensual.” 

Hook sighed in relief. “Okay good.  Some awkwardness that I did not need today.”

“What’s so awkward about it? You’ve gotten me out of some weirder, kinkier situations, doc.”

“I just thought I’d ask! Didn’t want to put things in my report to Megatron that he might already know.”

Starscream’s smile immediately faded and he held his intakes.  Hook noticed and sighed.  “Sorry, I made assumptions.  There is no reason to include this in any report.”  Starscream face was still blank, but he nodded.

“You’re not refueling enough, by the way,” he said, quickly changing the subject.

“I had some earlier. I just don’t like the taste of stale energon.”

“I understand, but it is only going to make things worse for you; your helmaches will increase, you will be lethargic, your healing will be slowed, and you won’t be able to defend yourself.  I don’t think mechs will mess with you after the beating Wildrider got, but things can change quickly around here as I’m sure you are aware.”  The seeker nodded in at least acknowledgement but didn’t seem like he was going to commit to any of the doctor’s orders.

“I’ve been instructed to release you into Megatron’s custody once you are more stable, and by my estimation that’s still about another day cycle.”

Starscream’s optics glittered lightly.  “Thanks, Doc, for what it is worth.”  Hook nodded and went back to typing on the screen.  Now quiet and no longer in conversation, Starscream felt his exhaustion sweep over him, as his wings twitched.  This room was likely one of the biggest in the whole ship since it contained so many mechs in stasis.  Still, his constant companion of fear tugged at the edges of his mind.

After a few moments, Soundwave, Rumble, Frenzy, and Ravage came into the med bay, clearly happy that Starscream was cognizant.  “Screamer!  You’re alive!”  Rumble said, jokingly.

“Don’t call me that, scraplet,” he said not unkindly, and couldn’t help but return a smile.  His optics glanced to Soundwave.  A small tilt of the helm in greeting.  Starscream smiled bigger in return.  But then he noticed Frenzy had reached the side of his berth and was looking at his pedes forlornly.

“I’m uh… I’m real sorry, Commander Starscream,” he said quietly.  The cassette looked like he was using all of his strength to finally look up at the seeker.  His whole frame radiated shame and remorse.

Starscream was quite amused as the formality was rare.  “They would have found out anyway, little mech.  It was bound to happen eventually.”  Soundwave had clearly put him up to this, but he appreciated the gesture anyway.  The cassette was quiet as he nodded, not entirely convinced, but also pleased at Starscream's reaction.

“Give us a moment,” Soundwave said in his monotone.  The twins nodded and walked away, with Ravage following behind.  Hook wisely found something to do on the other side of the bay.

Soundwave stood close to the berth, and surreptitiously laid his servo on Starscream’s, squeezing gently.  The seeker smirked.

“So bold, yet not bold enough,” he said to the telepath.

“I may be one who monitors the security systems, but I am not the only one these days.”  Soundwave sat on the side of the berth, rubbing the back of Starscream’s servo with his thumb.  “I’m afraid you will be spending a lot more time with Megatron for the remainder of the voyage.”

Starscream didn’t react.  “No more changes of scenery then,” he said.

“Megatron desires less exposure to other Decepticons until you are healed.”

Starscream’s optics flashed at the tiny lie.  That wasn’t why he was about to be sequestered.  Or at least, that wasn’t the only reason.

“Is he just going to give up commanding the ship then? Because he can’t have it both ways.”

“Answer: Unknown.” Soundwave gave one final squeeze as he stood back up when the cassettes returned.  Soundwave noticed that the seeker’s wings were twitching, and his servo gave a small tremble.

“Rumble: Will stay with Starscream.”

“Sure boss!  Whatever you need.” Rumble jumped into the berth with the seeker who at first looked a little put out, but then relaxed once the cassette was seated next to him comfortably.

Starscream gave the telepath a look of appreciation.  Soundwave nodded.  “Rumble: Alert me to any issues.  Starscream: No playing with cassette.”  Starscream laughed a little and watched the other three leave.  Frenzy shot them one last look over his shoulder and then they disappeared down the hallway.

“Frenzy really is sorry,” the cassetticon said next to him.  “Especially when he heard what had happened.  He said the bots were bullying him, so he kept trying to impress them.  Talking about you was the only thing that worked.”

“Talking about me being compromised in some way often works for many mechs it seems,” the seeker said irritably. 

“Not everyone feels that way.” Rumble said.  “Soundwave doesn’t feel that way,” the little gremlin grinned wickedly.

Starscream huffed his vents and smirked.  “Really? And what would you know about it? I didn’t think you had suddenly become a telepath.”

“You don’t get to sleep in a telepathic tape-deck’s chassis to not understand his feelings about things,” Rumble replied sagely.  “And man, when he’s not paying attention, the hot slag he’s thinking about-“

“Alright, that’s enough,” Starscream said covering up the mouth of the little Cybertronian next to him.  “It’s not exactly your business, little one,” he chided playfully.

Rumble just grinned.  “Fair.  I just think it’s… hot.  Super hot.”

Starscream rolled his eyes and shifted in the berth so that he was laying down on his side, letting Rumble lean against his chassis.  “Pervert,” he huffed as he used his arms as a pillow, and he tried to go back to recharge. 

Rumble leaned back and smiled, pulling out a datapad to read.


“Star- Star, you need to wake up.  Wake up!”  Rumble was shaking him nervously.

Starscream opened his optics, immediately alert.  His wings were pinging proximity alarms, and someone nearby had quite a pissed off energy field.  He sat up slowly to be greeted with the angry, boxy face of Motormaster.

“The sleeping seeker wakes,” he growled.  Starscream lazily looked for Hook who had his back turned and was being distracted by other Stunticons, apparently asking after Wildrider.  “We have unfinished business, seeker,” Motormaster continued menacingly.

“I’m not sure what you mean,” Starscream said bored.  “I thought my conversation with Wildrider and Drag Strip was pretty finished,” he hissed.  Being in the berth meant he was at least a head taller than the Stunticon, so he delighted in glaring down at the mech.

“I know what you did,” Motormaster said.  “I know you... you… enticed them in some way!  Teased them!  It’s what you do,” Motormaster said.

“I thought you guys were pissed at the two aftheads,” Rumble said.  Starscream put a servo on his arm, effectively asking him to keep quiet.

“Of course, we only said that so that they wouldn’t throw us in the brig!  Megatron almost killed one of mine over you, and I’m not gonna stand for it,” he said angrily.

“So, what exactly are you waiting for?  An invitation?”  Starscream replied sweetly.  “Or maybe you haven’t the bearings.”

Motormaster growled.  “You may be protected right now, but Megatron will get sick of you. He always does.  And when he’s done, we will have our turn,” he snarled.  Starscream frowned.

“My, my, my, at least buy me energon first,” Starscream replied twitching his wings. 

Motormaster spit lubricant on the ground in front of the berth and walked away back to the other Stunticons.  They all looked at Starscream with a glare as they walked off, presumably back to the control room.

“Man, Megs and ‘Wave are going to be so pissed-“ Rumble had started.

“No, they will not because we aren’t going to tell them,” Starscream said as he watched the mechs leave.

“What- why?”

“They wouldn’t have done that, especially in front of you, if they didn’t already have a plan- in fact you telling on them might have been part of their plan all along.  Soundwave and Megatron won’t wait to figure out what it is before acting.  Then we’ll never know.”

“Starscream, he totally just threatened you-“

Starscream cut him off with a bitter laugh.  “That’s status quo, Rumble.  Happens all the time.”

“But I’m pretty sure he said they were going to…uh…”

Starscream looked down and pet the helm of the worried cassette.  “Also status quo,” he said quietly.

Rumble looked at Starscream with sad optics through his visor.  “You know I can’t lie to Soundwave.”

“I’m not asking you to lie, just omit this conversation for a little bit. Until I can figure out what they are going to try.”  Rumble bit his lower lip and then nodded in agreement.

“And Rumble?”  Starscream asked as the cassette titled his helm in reply.

“Why does Skywarp have paint on his face?  He looks like a clown.”

Such innocent optics greeted him back.  “Huh! Weird.”

Chapter Text

Rumble was able to stay up through the night, noticing that Starscream was awake as well.  It seemed like he wasn’t recharging, just staring after his trinemates with a distant look on his faceplate.  He wasn’t saying much, and Rumble felt troubled.

Starscream’s field was being kept close, like he didn’t want to give away his emotions to the cassette.  Rumble noticed the seeker’s plating was running very hot, but it seemed like his constant fear was slightly abated in the bigger room.  This was the biggest room in the ship, so it made sense.  The seeker had offered him some energon at one point and he had gladly taken it.  There was only a few more hours left before the shift change again, and if he understood correctly, Megatron would be coming to collect the seeker shortly.  Refueling now would save him some time.

He took a few sips and immediately knew Starscream had drugged him.  He didn’t know how the seeker had gotten a hold of something, but he had, and Rumble felt a mix of betrayal and panic.  Starscream was gently laying him down on the berth as the seeker slid shakily to his pedes.

Soundwave… help…” was all Rumble could muster before he felt his systems shutting down.  It wasn’t strong enough of an emergency comm that if Soundwave was recharging, it would not wake him up.  He whined slightly.

“Hush, little one,” Starscream said.  “You wouldn’t recharge,” he said matter-of-factly, as if that explained everything. Rumble’s audios became more and more muffled and he found his limbs far too heavy.  Hook was nowhere to be found.

“What are you… doing,” Rumble ground out, feeling the forced relaxation sink into his frame.

“I… can’t do this.  I have to go back to sleep,” the seeker said, stiltedly walking over to his trine and getting on a berth.

“…what? Wait, no- you can’t…”

Starscream was pulling an IV line out of the original bag of sedative that had been for him back when they had first come down here.  “I’d rather be damaged than be what he wants me to be,” he spat, his faceplate dark.  He was angry and upset, his wings were trembling with rage or fear; Rumble couldn’t be sure.  The seeker quickly opened an access panel in his wrist and was pulling the needle out to find a good line.

Rumble whirred his vents in alarm.  Soundwave had explained to him that Starscream could no longer return to sleep, and Rumble had thought to ask Starscream if he wanted to talk about it, but he never found the right opportunity.  Starscream seemed so dead in the optics.  Rumble felt like he had failed this new and surprising friendship.  The seeker looked tired, fearful, and at the same time committed to this harm he was about to inflict on himself.

STOP,” came the voice of Megatron.  He was standing against the doorway, his optics blazing with more anger in them than Starscream had seen in a long, long time.  Starscream had frozen and was inches from his energon line and just stared at the warlord with a look of pain.

I get to control what happens to me, not you,” he cried, fear wrapping around his vocalizer.  Megatron had taken a few steps forward, and Starscream snarled.  “Do not take another step closer to me, you tyrannical monster,” he said lowly. 

“Starscream,” Megatron said with surprising gentleness.  “If you do this, you will be broken.”

“I’M ALREADY BROKEN THANKS TO YOU,” the seeker raged, anger and resentment flaring off his frame.  “You can’t even protect me after forcing me to endure this torture, and now I have to look forward to more of it!”  He leaned forward, venting heavily as if he couldn’t quite seem to catch his breath.  “I c-can’t do this anymore, Megatron.  This has to ssssttop,” he said as his vocalizer began to hitch and weakness was overtaking him.  He moved to put the needle in anyway and was stopped by a pair of servos holding his wrists.

Soundwave.

Bewildered, the seeker attempted to thrash in the grip, but the weakness he felt earlier was quickly overwhelming him.  His helm ached terribly, and his breathing was still ragged.  He dimly noticed the telepath had likely come from the back entrance to the med bay along a service corridor, specifically so he could sneak up on him.  Soundwave had gone to his knees and was looking up at the seeker on the berth through his visor, holding his wrists so hard they left little dents.  His faceplate looked… strained.

Megatron had reached them, and quickly plucked the needle out of the seeker’s servos.  Starscream growled at both of them as his vents cycled heavily.  Soon, the growls became whines as he started to beg.  “Please let me go back,” he said pathetically.

“You cannot go back or you will be useless to me,” Megatron said.  He was frowning deeply.

“What the f-frag do I care?” he said thickly.  “You don’t care what happens to me, just that I obey you.”

Megatron grabbed his wrist roughly from Soundwave and pulled it up above his head.  The seeker grimaced and dangled there.  “Yes I want you to obey me.  You are an asset to my cause, Starscream.  I’ve just run out of patience to deal with anything other than your loyalty.”

Starscream glared.  “If you believed I was an asset, you would listen to me,” he said.  “I am an ornament to you; best silent and rarely used to potential.”

Megatron used his other arm and wrapped it around the seeker’s waist, bringing him close against his chest.  Soundwave let go of his hold on the seeker and stood, watching the events unfolding before him, carefully.

“You are an idiot, Starscream.” Megatron roughly picked up the seeker off the berth.  Starscream’s frame lolled forward so that Megatron could carry him with one arm holding him around the waist, and the seeker was bent in half like a petropuppy.  Starscream also seemed to weak to argue at his point, groaning as his helm erupted in pain.

Soundwave watched as Megatron turned and walked out of the med bay without a second glance, carrying his bristling second.  The tape-deck went to Rumble who had managed to avoid slipping into full-recharge and was now coming out of it.  “Sorry boss bot,” he said weakly. 

“Apologies: unnecessary,” Soundwave replied.  “Starscream is not well.”


Starscream watched the corridor floor as they approached Megatron’s quarters.  He was so tired, as if his will had been scooped out of his processor.

Megatron typed in his access code and walked into the room, putting the seeker down.  He sat down in a chair in the corner, staring at Starscream in the berth with angry optics.  His servos clenched and unclenched like he was trying to hold himself back.

“I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined you would stoop so low to avoid being obedient,” he said.

Starscream was on his back in the berth, unmoving.  “You have misinterpreted… everything.”

“Explain then.”

Starscream radiated simmering frustration on the berth and wanted nothing more than to just lay there in silence.  “Do we have to do this now?

Megatron ignored him.  “You would rather permanently damage yourself than be my second-in-command, is that it?  I could gladly replace you with someone else if the pressure was too much for you.”

Starscream bared his sharp denta.  “Fine.”  He sat up in the berth and turned to glare the gunformer.  “I quit.  If you want an Air Commander, pick Thundercracker or Ramjet for all I care,” Starscream spat. 

Megatron stood angrily.  “Are you so undisciplined that you would give up your rank that easily?!  I am disappointed,” he sneered.

Starscream shook with fury.  “You seem to think that still has an effect on me,” the seeker said lowly.  “You are not worth impressing.”

“Millions of years of your sycophancy would call that a lie,” he replied.  “You have craved my attention all this time, and now that I give it to you, you act like a sparkling, willing to hurt yourself rather than just obey me.”

Starscream narrowed his optics.  “You have given me plenty of attention, Megatron.  It’s just not the kind I wanted.”

Megatron drew back at that.  He sat back down heavily in his chair, looking away.  “I am not accepting your resignation,” he said more evenly.  “You are exhausting, but still worth something to me.”

Starscream felt his processor-ache return.  He drew his knees up and hugged them, resting his chin on top.  He closed his optics and allowed his wings to droop slightly.  He sensed that Megatron was giving up fighting for now, and Starscream was too tired to continue.

“What happened in the med bay…” he said, raspy.  “That.  That was a mistake on my part,” he conceded.  “I was not thinking clearly.”

Megatron turned to look at his second, pulling in on himself, looking lower than the gunformer had ever seen him.  It was clear now to him that he had underestimated the toll this would take seeker and this entire experiment had been a mistake.  And now, it was a mistake he could not fix.

Megatron sighed.  “Can I trust that you will not do that again?”

Starscream nodded into his knees, closing his optics.  “Will… you put me back after I am healed?”

Megatron turned to back to his second and locked optics on his frame.  “Yes.”  Megatron felt his spark skip a beat when he saw the relief the seeker had, the washing away of tension, the sheer gratitude the smaller mech had was… beautiful.

Starscream shifted in the berth and lay back down on his back, shivering slightly but smiling.  Megatron moved to sit beside him and absently stroked his wing.  The seeker didn’t seem to really notice him as he drifted into quick recharge, giving into exhaustion.

It appeared he had even scared himself with how far he would go.  Megatron would tred carefully then.


A few months ago…

“Are you slagging joking?” asked the seeker, disgusted.

A sigh.  “Reply: Our intelligence says-“

“Your intelligence is often wrong.  In fact, I’m beginning to question if you in fact lack all intelligence.” Double meaning.  Clever.

Soundwave didn’t look amused, but he hardly ever did.  Laserbeak also seemed to take umbrage as she clacked her beak irritably.

“Starscream, are you quite finished?”  Megatron said, examining his digits.

“No, but I will be quiet if you two want to keep displaying how stupid you are.”

Megatron slammed his fist down on the table, narrowly avoiding cracking the display embedded in it.  The picture displays of Europa and Jupiter blinked coming back on, underlighting the warlords furious face.  “What in particular, do you have a problem with?”

The seeker had jumped but still gave the other two officers a disgusted look.  “Lord Megatron, you want to want to take my seekers down in a submarine to possibly gain an alliance.  Fliers.  Below thousands of feet of water in a cramped space, submarine.  On a moon we haven’t even surveyed.  I’m just trying to confirm the lunacy of this plan before I can confidently say you have lost your mind and I will be relieving you of duty.”

Megatron glared.  “Soundwave has already patiently explained to you the merit of this plan.  They won’t have fliers, so you will have an advantage.  We all know how well you do when you are already winning.”

Starscream’s wings tilted back in offense.  “Of course they won’t have fliers! There is NOWHERE TO FLY.”  The seeker put his hands on his hips.  “Honestly Megatron.  Need I remind you about our problem with enclosed spaces-“

Megatron waved his hand, cutting off Starscream.  “No need to remind us Starscream, we are quite aware without your whining.”

Starscream groused with fury.  “How are you even going to accomplish this?  The seekers would lose their minds as soon as you got below the ice.”

“Answer: Sedation.”

“You fragging would, Soundwave,” the seeker growled.  The tape-deck pulled his helm back at the implication, but just huffed his vents.  The seeker turned back to Megatron.  “Sedation!  Brilliant idea!  You can’t allow them to be awake for the ordeal, so you sedate them so they are worthless.  It’s almost like you shouldn’t bring them at all.”

“Starscream.”

“What if you run out of sedative? What if something goes wrong with the submarine?  What if one of us wakes up and causes problems for you?  What if there is something down there you didn’t expect?  Do you want a half-mad seeker running around, possibly sabotaging the integrity of the hull?  There is no way they will go down with you, no matter how much I order them.  If you get between a seeker and the sky, you will regret it.”

Soundwave watched the verbal volleying like it was a hateful tennis match.  It was clear that Starscream was terrified by the idea of going through with this plan, but that was just his faulty programming at work.  But maybe Megatron would understand that, and may listen to Starscream’s points, which as much as the telepath was loathe to admit, were actually good ones.

“I’m not terribly concerned about one of you waking up, but it is true that I do not enjoy you making problems.  And I can’t possibly leave you here.”

“This has got to be the most foolish plan, most IDIOTIC- wait.” Starscream face became suspicious.  “When you say you can’t leave ‘you’ here-“

“I mean you. You are accompanying this voyage.”

“Like SLAG I am!  I am your second-in-command!  Who is going to take care of your Earth operations?”

“Oh you thought this was just going to be me taking your seekers along into the icy depths, while you get to sit here and play ‘leader?’  I couldn’t trust you to lead a parade.”

Starscream choked at the indignity.  “I won’t even entertain this idea, this is ludicrous!  Cybertronians don’t do deep water, Megatron!  You know why!”

Megatron flicked his optics to Soundwave and then flicked them to the door.  Soundwave leaned forward in a short bow, then turned and started to walk out.

Starscream didn’t notice as he was too busy in his tirade.  “Our plating would be crushed, Megatron!  The pressure would be enormous at these depths.  I know you have heard of the Ascension!*  It can’t possibly be worth it, there is absolutely no merit in this plan-“

Starscream clearly hadn’t seen the servo raise up to slap him, or he might have braced himself.  As it was the seeker had fallen on the ground with an anguished shout.  He scrambled up and still kept blathering his insubordination.  “You can beat me all you want, this is absolute nonsense-“ Another punch to the helm.  When would the seeker get it?  When would he be reasonable?

“AGH! Megatron, you are a fool!  This-agh!”

The warlord said nothing in his onslaught.  The seeker cowered and but did attempt to shield himself and even, foolishly, fight back.  The tyrant’s face was menacing, his eyes were bright crimson as he mercilessly beat his second-in-command.  The seeker finally stopped trying to talk with those pretty lip components, but instead snarled and yelled invectives fit for a scrap yard.  Then Megatron grabbed one of coward’s wings.

Starscream gasped, as he usually did.  Predictable.  Megatron often idly thought about what it would feel like to the seeker if he ripped off the wing?  Would the pain be searing? Would it feel the same as being blinded in the optic?  He pulled the wide-opticked mech closer.

“You need to make some additional considerations, Starscream.  The price of ignoring my orders is far greater than you can afford,” he snarled, squeezing the wing without mercy.

Starscream pedes left the floor as Megatron lifted him. He cried out in strangled, terrible pain.  The fear and anger mixed in his faceplate slowly faded as he tried to pry the servo off of his wing.  “I… I’m listening, Meg… atron.”  Not quite cowed, but close.

Megatron dropped him.  “Someday I hope we won’t have to go through this just so you listen,” he spat.

Starscream shuddered as he sullenly inspected his wing.  Clearly, he was in terrible pain, but he seemed to actually understand that more complaining was only going to lead to more of the gunformer’s wrath.

“If you continue to throw a tantrum at just following orders, I will personally disassemble you, component by component and feed you to the insecticons.” 

Starscream glared, but wisely remained silent.

“You will explain the plan to the seekers.  You will assure them of the merit of the plan.  You will join us in the descent beneath the ice of Europa, blissfully asleep.  When you wake, you will help us forge an alliance or leave no trace of them for the Autobots to find.  Are we clear?

Starscream looked like he was going to object, but Megatron smashed the display on the table after all.

The seeker closed his optics and cycled his intakes.  “Yes, my lord.”

“You are dismissed.”

Starscream stood shakily to his pedes, holding his arm that seemed to have gone limp from their struggle.  A few drips of energon fell from cracks in his plating where Megatron had done some extensive damage.  The seeker limped to the door as quickly as he could.

Soundwave then entered, and Megatron observed a brief look between his officers.  Starscream put his wings back and strode out the door in bristling discontent.

Megatron glared after him, and finally relaxed his fist that he still had clenched. 

Soundwave watched the warlord carefully, then said, “Starscream’s concerns: meritorious.”

Megatron looked to the telepath with daggers in his optics.  He then turned away and laughed, bitterly.  “But you waited until after I beat him to tell me.  That is quite… sadistic Soundwave.”

The telepath looked taken aback at the suggestion.  Maybe that wasn’t his intention then?  He had held his agreement with Starscream for another reason?

The Decepticon leader regarding his third.  “Why did you wait to tell me?”

Soundwave paused, looked like he was weighing his next words carefully.  “Soundwave: Hoped you would listen to Starscream himself.”

Megatron frowned.  “No matter.  We proceed with the plan, Soundwave.  Tell the others what you will require to move forward.”  Soundwave inclined his head again in a bow.

“And Soundwave,” he said.  The telepath looked up at him.

“Never hope for Starscream and I to understand each other.  You will be disappointed.”


Present Day

Megatron awoke with a start.  Having spent much of his time in Kaon and in gladiatorial matches, he had certain survival habits when it came to recharge that were hard to ignore.  One of these habits was a luxury of being the commander of the Decepticons; he always got sleep alone and didn’t have to share a room with anyone.

Yet he wasn’t alone, hence why he woke so suddenly.  Starscream’s red optics bored into him as he lay next to him on the berth, facing the bigger mech.

“Good morning,” the seeker said dryly. 

It had been a few days since the med bay incident, and Megatron and Starscream had reached a silent understanding of a truce.  The seeker was attempting to recover and Megatron did not make further attempts to engage his second on dangerous territory.  But it did seem like the seeker was getting restless.

Megatron slipped into a grin.  Annoying Starscream was a better perk than sleeping alone.  “Good morning, Starscream.  How are you?”  My, how things had changed between them.

The seeker looked irritated but said nothing as he rolled over on his other side in a huff.  Megatron sat up and stretched.  He sorted through his comm messages and pulled out a datapad from subspace.  They were making good progress in their downward descent, but they still had quite a journey ahead of them.  The Autobots hadn’t been able to close their lead like he had feared, but they still followed behind, faithfully, like a petropuppy trotting behind its master. 

He retrieved an energon cube from subspace and began to sip.  There was a stirring beside him, and then a peak of a faceplate.

He arced an optic-ridge.  When was the last time Starscream refueled?  And then, with more malevolency, what will he do to get this energon?  He smirked.

He set down the cube on the table next to the berth and went back to skimming the datapad.  Engine output was still acting a little strange, but no one could really figure out what exactly was wrong.  It was operating within normal parameters, and no diagnostic could identify any issues, but it seemed still to lag or hitch occasionally when course changes had been entered to it.  He hoped Starscream’s little engine control-stunt hadn’t done any lasting damage.  To either system.  He had tried to tread carefully with his second.

“M-Megatron,” came a small voice next to him.  The gunformer lazily moved his optics over to the seeker.

“Yes, Starscream?”

Starscream had turned back to face him, his faceplate in a forced look of innocence.  Megatron idly wondered how long it had taken him to land on that expression.  Likely kliks.

“Might I… have some energon?  I’ve not refueled lately,” he said quietly and as plaintively as his vocalizer would allow.

Megatron thought for a moment, and then shrugged.  “Of course, Starscream.”  And he went back to his datapad.

The seeker had a confused look on his face as he slowly sat up.  His optics flicked from the cube back to Megatron and then back to the cube.  His face then scrunched up in annoyance.  “Uhm, Megatron do you mind handing it to me-“

“I’m not your waiter, you can retrieve it yourself.”

A huff from the seeker, a twitch of the wings.  Because the berth was against the wall, Megatron’s frame blocked the way.  Starscream was going to have to crawl over him to get the energon.

Megatron was treading carefully, but not that carefully.

Starscream attempted to lean across Megatron’s lap, without actually touching it.  He stretched out his arm and servo to retrieve said cube, all while avoiding looking at Megatron’s face which was inches from his own.  He looked so positively determined.

It’d be a shame if he lost his balance.

Megatron shifted so that his right leg brushed up against Starscream’s knees; those same knees that were holding him up.  Starscream gave an undignified squawk as he lost his balance and fell across Megatron’s lap.  Starscream froze as his faceplates immediately turned hot.

“You’re usually more graceful than that,” Megatron said, practically purring.  He lifted his knees so that Starscream fell closer to his chassis.

He felt the seeker’s intakes hitch.  “Primus Megatron, if you want-“ Starscream began indignantly.

Megatron leaned forward to interrupt by talking directly into the seeker’s audios.  “If I want what.”  He felt the seeker tense, but he still had not removed himself.

Starscream was sullen; he flexed his servos into a fist and then braced himself to extricate himself from Megatron.  Looks like he was giving up on the energon.  Megatron allowed it with just a trace of disappointment.  Starscream just laid back down and turned on his side away from Megatron.

But Megatron wasn’t done.

He threw his datapad back into subspace.  He then leaned over and wrapped an arm around the seeker’s waist, pushing his noseplate into the back of Starscream’s helm.  Starscream of course tensed beyond what Megatron thought was physically possible; he could almost feel the stress put on the seeker’s energon lines.  The spark in the seeker’s chest was pounding, and Megatron could tell he had deepened that fetching blush.  A sharp intake of breath told him that this might have been more intimate than Starscream was expecting, but the gunformer didn’t go any further.  He lightly cycled his intakes on the seeker’s neck, grinning when he saw the seeker’s servos clench.

They laid there like that for more than a few kliks, Starscream’s pride smarting from the whole affair.  Megatron could practically feel it through the energy field.  It was almost sparking from ire and annoyance. 

Megatron nearly laughed.  It was so easy to get him wound up like this, and over the millennia Megatron had found that he enjoyed pushing his air commander more than he probably should have.

He had observed that the seeker grew incredibly irritable when any mech got this close to him, especially on the Nemesis.  He radiated haughtiness and arrogance, likely engrained in him from his seeker upbringing and scientist background.  In Megatron’s experience, many seekers were the same, cut from the same sheet of metal.  But of course, Starscream was different.  He practically attacked anyone that got near his gorgeous set of wings, all null-rays and claws.  He was almost feral in his indignant outbursts, and it seemed that nothing could calm his shrieks when he got started save a fusion cannon.

So to be given the opportunity like this, that Starscream actually needed to be touched?  Well, maybe there was a Primus.

He wondered if Starscream was ever going to try and seduce him back.  He had seen him attempt it with their subordinates with some success, perhaps.  Megatron didn’t really keep track of the fraternizing within his army.  He did know from his gladiatorial days that warrior lovers could make for great fighting teams, or could break a spark when they invariably lost half of the couple, so he neither encouraged or discouraged it.  He had always kept his dalliances rather casual giving him that charisma that had attracted many mechs to his cause in the first place.

Of course, there had been the social elite on Cybertron who had paid for exclusive access to the fine frames of the gladiatorial winners, with or without their permission.  Megatron knew he likely had a muddled view of relationships.  But he did wonder why Starscream had never really given him a try.

Lost in thought, he hadn’t heard the seeker say something.

“You aft, did you actually fall into recharge?” Starscream muttered, quietly. 

“Hmm,” he hummed into Starscream’s neck.  He felt the seeker’s spark skip a beat.  He wistfully thought what it must be to have Soundwave’s telepathic abilities.  Would it drain all the fun out of this, when he wouldn’t have to guess what is going through the seeker’s head? 

“You’re enjoying this far too much,” Starscream said bitterly.  “I’ll bet Optimus doesn’t… do whatever this is.  To his subordinates.”

Megatron felt like he was being baited, but he was feeling far too introspective to get irked.  “Oh, you’d be surprised about what Autobot command does for team-building exercises,” he said nonchalantly.  “Besides, isn’t this a compliment to you?  I don’t do this to anyone else.”

Another spark beat skipped.  “…if this is how you compliment, I’d hate to see what you do when you flirt.”

Megatron chuckled and felt the noise reverberate through their frames.  “They are fairly similar, little seeker,” he said.

Starscream froze.  “Don’t,” he whispered.

“Don’t what?” Megatron said, frowning.  He could feel the cold, icy anger radiating off the red and white one beside him.

Don’t… just please, don’t.  Stop.”  He could feel the seeker reach down to remove the servo wrapped languidly around his waist.  Megatron however was starting to get annoyed that his good mood was being ruined, and he didn’t understand why.  He held his hand firm and actually pulled the seeker in closer.  “I just asked you to stop,” the seeker hissed.

“I’m not doing anything.  What am I doing that I need to stop?”

“This- this behavior!  Stop making a fool of me!”

Megatron nearly drew back.  “Making a fool? What-“

Starscream had drawn his helm back and hit Megatron in the face with the back of it.  The gunformer released Starscream and bellowed as his servos flew to his face that hurt from the blow.  He felt the seeker remove himself from the berth and had sullenly sat in the corner of the quarters, opposite the berth.  Starscream’s red optics bored into him; angry, insulted, and a slight touch of fear at what he had just done.  He had clearly damaged his helm slightly at the blow, not far from where the original damage from the attack in the hallway had been.

“What the actual slag, Starscream.”

The seeker shivered, but then just looked away angrily, staying silent.

“Are you this messed up in the helm?  I was actually…  You know what, nevermind.”

Starscream just sneered.  “You throw me into this situation, forcing me to endure my claustrophobia that was etched into my programming from the spark; you delight in my discomfort from needing you, of all mechs, help me ease the fear; you humiliate me, you torture me, you beat me.  Fine.” He folded his arms over himself.  “More of the same.  But I will not be teased in that way.  You are mocking me, and I will not stand for it.”  His voice had become more high-pitched as his tirade unfolded, and by the end he sounded legitimately upset.

Megatron had tread too heavily then.

He was immensely confused, and for once he wanted to try and understand what was going on in the helm of his second, rather than just beat it out of him and move on.  Clearly communicating was neither of their strong suits.  Soundwave was much more apt at getting to the gist of things, even if he was painfully brief.  But Starscream and Megatron had always misunderstood each other.  Possibly even back to the beginning.

He tried to piece this together, while rubbing his faceplate where the seeker had hurt him.  Starscream thought he was trying to humiliate him by flirting with him.  How did that make any sense?  It was always these things that he did that made the former gladiator throw his servos up in the air and stalk off to other things.  He was often an excellent second, coming up with schemes, machines, weapons, even new soldiers to add to their cause.  His intellect was dizzying in its complexity.  But then he tried to slag Megatron with stupid, foolish plans to take over as the Decepticon leader.  It never worked, but still the idiot tried.  It would have been endearing if it wasn’t pathetic.

So, he had to try and think like Starscream to figure this out.  Starscream, the narcissistic, preening aft-hole who thought he was better than everyone else.  Who gets upset when Megatron attempts to seduce him-

His spark sank just a little in his chest.  “Ah.  I see,” he said as neutrally as he could muster.

The seeker regarded him warily, distrust radiating through his frame.

Megatron was clearly not appealing to the seeker.  He didn’t want to stoop with a mech that he considered attractively inferior, but he couldn’t come out and say that.  Megatron was still the commander of the Decepticon army and had shown little remorse in corporal punishment.  Despite all the insults they had thrown at each other over time, the ways they had tried to kill each other, the lying, betrayals, somehow this hurt a little more.

The gunformer leaned over and picked up the energon cube and set it at the edge of the berth closest to Starscream.  “I wasn’t going to force you,” he said.  “Know that I respect you in this, at least,” he said. 

The seeker still was crouching in the corner as if still waiting for the coming blows.  As the kliks went on, he looked more and more confused.  Still some of the anger seemed to melt off him, but the stress of his fear still was evident in his wings.  Eventually, he stood, his frame trembling slightly, and he clearly had to use the wall to steady his legs.  He was looking at Megatron as if he was about to erupt any moment.  Haltingly, he took steps, then picked up the energon and regarded it for a moment.

Locking eyes with the warlord, he rasped “I don’t understand you,” throwing back his head as he drank the entire cube.

“The feeling is mutual.”  Megatron went back to his datapad again.  He flicked through some reports again and saw the seeker regarding him and the berth with a dour look.  His wings were twitching.  “I’m not going to beat you or… touch you.  Unless you ask me to.”

The seeker stood there, clearly still conflicted.  He carefully put the cube down and after another moment of hesitation, crawled onto the berth.  He simply sat next to Megatron eventually allowing his warm arm to rest against Megatron’s.  They sat there in an awkward silence for what seemed like decades.

Megatron threw his datapad back into subspace, frustrated.  He wasn’t ever going to get an obedient air commander.  This whole experiment had very little chance of success anyway.  He had distantly hoped that once Starscream had started to heal, he might be different, and he could salvage something from these efforts he had gone through.  But he had realized it had all been an actual failure and there were no lasting effects. He wasn’t seeing any of the changes that Soundwave had reported to him.

What was different between him and the tape-deck?

“What don’t you understand… about me?” Starscream said quietly.  Attempting to reconcile.  That was… new.

Megatron sighed.  “I know what you want, but I don’t understand why you want it.”

Starscream blinked at the frankness.  “Funny, I feel the same way.”  A bitter smirk.

Megatron had a look of confusion on his faceplate.  Always talking in riddles.  “Why do you want to lead the Decepticons?”

Starscream sat up straighter.  “I deserve to lead.”

“So you have said.  Many, many times.”  Megatron attempted to keep his vocalizer even.  This was the calmest he had been near his second for a while.  “But why.”

Starscream was stock still.  “…Glory.”

“Glory.”

“Yes.  I want glory.  I never had audiences of mechs shouting my name, believing in me and wanting me to succeed.  I was only in your shadow for even a taste of that.  You never let me participate in the games.”

Megatron looked ahead, distantly.  “Glory is fleeting.”

“Glory is eternal.  If you can keep it.”

Megatron sighed.  “You decided long ago that you cannot have your glory while I function.  This is what I don’t understand.”

Starscream frowned.  “I think, Lord Megatron, we both decided that.”

Megatron was about to reply when he heard shouting in the hallway outside his quarters.  Both the seeker and the gunformer turned and crouched in attack positions.  Then there was a knock at the door.

Megatron stood to answer it.  Motormaster.  “Apologies Lord Megatron.  It appears the comms are down.  The main comm relay looks… damaged.”  His optics slid to the seeker laying in the berth.  His gaze grew unseemly.  Starscream folded his arms and returned his look with an unwavering glare.

“Damaged?  How?”

Motormaster dragged his eyes away from Starscream and back to his leader.  “Sir… it looks like someone took a pipe to it.  Soundwave is attempting to fix it.”

“And the shouting?”

“… Hmm?” he replied, his optics locked on Starscream’s frame again.

“What was the shouting we heard?” Starscream rasped, angrily.

Motormaster sneered.  “Just a misunderstanding,” he said.  “Someone said the word sabotage a little too loudly and mechs got a little hot under the collar plate.  It was handled.”

Megatron crossed his arms and turned towards his second.  “It was handled, apparently,” he said snidely.

“Curious that he didn’t say who was involved or how it was handled, lord,” came the reply from the seeker, catching on.

“QUITE curious.”  Both turned to look at Motormaster expectantly.

The Stunticon stammered.  Megatron and Starscream rarely aligned like this, and when they did, there was nothing that could stand in their way.  “The Constructicons are restless,” he said, lamely.

“Come, Starscream.  I think we need to talk to the Constructicons.”  He held out a servo.

Starscream accepted it.  “And maybe some other corroborating witnesses,” he said sweetly.

Chapter Text

Starscream wondered if his claustrophobia was starting to relent.  He still felt his wings twitching and his spark was fluttering in his chest.  The pain was there.  Just everything felt more numb.  He might actually be feeling okay.

And nothing made him feel better than being on the same wavelength as Megatron.

They came in, a join front to the almost-riot that was spilling out of the mess into the hallway.  The triple changers, the Stunticons, the Combaticons, and the Constructicons were all yelling at each other in worsening anger, with accusations bouncing off the metal walls of the close quarters.

Things were not going well, and Starscream understood why morale was low.  For one thing, they hadn’t been in a fight that wasn’t with each other for days, so they didn’t have the usual outlets for their anger.  It didn’t help that the air in the ship was moist, and most mechs were dirty; the heat their frames put off mixed with the coldness of the metal hull, giving the air a distinctly humid pallor.  Mildew was growing in many quarters of the sub.  Rations were technically consumable, just not particularly palatable.  Combined with close proximity to mechs who didn’t know how to just deal with it, this was likely going to happen.

Guess it felt just like home, just… tighter.

Megatron had grabbed the first bot that was about to throw blows and tossed him aside like a unimprinted protoform.  That had quieted most of them.  Starscream’s shrieking of insults had pulled up the rest of them into attention.  They were surprised to see the Air Commander, and a hush had settled over the troops.

“Things are progressing smoothly on the mission,” Megatron said.  “Your personal discomfort is irrelevant to the cause, but has not gone unnoticed by the officers,” he said, optics sweeping the crowd.  “How much more frightening will you be if you funnel this malcontent into something useful against the Autobots?”  Megatron had always had a way to turn a rebuke into a compliment, when he felt like it. 

“We will find who did this,” Starscream added.  There were optics wide as Starscream spoke.  Many were reminiscing to when Megatron and Starscream could finish each other’s sentences. This was like the good old days.  “And rest assured, they will be punished,” he said, smirking.  That earned many knowing looks and dark laughs from the crew.

“My fellow Decepticons, return to your posts, your quarters, your duties, and return to our ideals.  We will be victorious in this mission.  Decepticons, rise up!”

A cacophonous yell rose among the mechs.  Starscream had slunk to the back and leaned against the doorframe away from the rest of the action, observing and trying to get out of the way.  They all wanted to smile and clap Megatron on the back, congratulating him on the mission so far and express their continued allegiance so they crowded him.  Megatron’s optics found Starscream’s for a moment.

Enjoy your glory, Starscream thought.

Soundwave appeared beside him, also observing the rest of them.  Starscream folded his arms across his chassis and regarded the telepath who stood just a little closer than usual.  He smirked.

“Starscream: Come here often?”

Starscream couldn’t help but laugh.  “I sincerely you get better at this as time goes on.”

Soundwave’s visor flashed as he matched Starscream’s posture and folded his own arms.  “Teach me.”

The seeker stared straight ahead and kept watching the other ‘cons crowd their leader further.  “I’ve already started, dear, keep up.”

A huff of vents.  “Megatron: Happier.  You look better as well.”

“Yes, we had an oddly satisfying chat.  It seems we don’t often speak the same language.”  Starscream looked around as the crowd swelled a little.  He felt a little more than trapped.  “Mind if we get out of here?” he said quietly.

Soundwave commed Megatron, who was able to look over the helms of most of the mechs in the corridor to meet their optics.  He saw the seeker’s wing twitch and merely inclined his helm in a yes.  Starscream immediately took off for Soundwave’s quarters, with Soundwave quietly following.

Megatron stared after them before going back to his soldiers.


Starscream hungrily tore off Soundwave’s mask and was kissing him as soon as they got inside the door.  Soundwave had been surprised, as he fell back against the closed door.  He braced himself as Starscream climbed on top of him, wrapping his legs around the waist of the telepath, and embracing him around the neck.  The seeker’s kissing was feverish and his vents were hitching quickly.

Soundwave pulled away from the door and turned them so that Starscream’s back was up against the door.  The seeker was venting prettily, pushed up the door between the rapidly heating frame of the tape-deck and the cool metal behind him.  Soundwave gently opened their panels while maintaining optic-contact with the seeker who had gasped at the touches.  They were both venting hard, and Starscream went to whine with need, but Soundwave had covered up his mouth with his servo. 

They could still hear quite a few mechs lingering in the corridor.

Slowly, Soundwave entered Starscream, delighting in the pretty vocalizations that were being mumbled into his servo and the small shivers that ran through the flier wrapped around him.  He started to pick up the pace as the seeker coiled around him, nodding and squeezing his frame in an attempt to get deeper and closer to the telepath. 

Sounwave found the crook of the seeker's neck and kissed it, lingering with his mouth.  He then moved up to Starscream's audios.  "So beautiful, commander."

Starscream bit down on the servo on his mouth as he clearly overloaded, which sent Soundwave into his own overload.  They stood there panting for a few kliks before replacing their panels and Starscream started to chuckle.  “Sorry,” he laughed as some energon dripped from the tape-deck’s servo.

The seeker’s laugh was a delight.  Soundwave shrugged, and gently let the seeker down giving him a light kiss on the cheek. He staunched the bleeding in his servo with a cleaning rag from subspace.

“How are you feeling?” he said, gently caressing the seeker’s cheek with this other servo.  While the quick intimacy was not unwanted, it felt different than the last time.  More about releasing tension. 

“Better,” he said warmly.  “Honestly.  Megatron has let me heal in relative peace,” he said.  “How is… Rumble?”

“He’s fine, just worried about you.” In truth, the cassette had been morose and had blamed himself for the incident, but he was slowly coming out of it.  Starscream could deal with that later.

Soundwave pulled away and unsubspaced some energon, offering it to the seeker.  Starscream declined with a wistful grin.  My how Soundwave was so much more kind than Megatron.

Yet for the first time, in a long time, thinking of the warlord didn’t bring up images of fear and hatred.  Megatron and he had experienced an odd moment where they understood each other and walking out to calm the masses had felt… right.  He was still slightly irritated that the warlord had tried to mock him with seductive words and flattery.  Clearly the warlord didn’t feel that way, especially if he was just as quick to beat his second within an inch of his life for simply being himself.  Megatron had plenty of time to make those feelings known when Starscream had wanted to pursue a relationship.  But those days were long past.

He realized he had been staring off into nothing for some time, and the telepath was staring at him.  “I hated how lost you looked back then, how far-away.  I don’t see it on you anymore, but I hope you will trust me to try and help before that happens again.”

Starscream scrunched up his faceplate in a small smile, as if he was going to say no but felt bad about it.  Instead, he shrugged.  “So a saboteur onboard.  Interesting.  Any leads yet?”

Soundwave obliged the change in subject, albeit reluctantly.  “Unfortunately, no.  The security camera in that area of the ship was disabled before we got a glimpse at who it was.”

The seeker kept his mind purposely blank, but he had a feeling a Stunticon was probably involved.  “So… not an accident then.”  He didn’t like the creeping feeling that was crawling across his plating.

“Private comms are still functional as long as I am awake; I can reroute them.  But none of this matters for you.  Hook says you are almost healed and can go back to sleep soon.”

Starscream nodded distractedly.  He craved the bliss of unconsciousness that the recharge would afford him, but it appeared the Stunticons were starting to make their move against him.  He would be even more vulnerable in the medical bay, especially unconscious. 

But his thoughts were shattered by the sound of dull boom.

There was a shuddering quake that ripped from one end of the submarine to the other, causing some pressure to burst pipe a Soundwave's quarters.  Ice-cold water burst in and started filling up the closed room.  Starscream could barely contain a shriek.  Soundwave quickly stood on the berth and ran his servos along the pipe looking for the shut-off valve as more distant loud bangs in the hull indicated that they were in trouble.  The lights in the room which had previously been a faint yellow light were now glowing crimson.

“Motormaster: report.”  Rapidly, Soundwave started receving comms from everyone asking what was going on.  His helm began to ache with the noise of the crew demanding answers.

Static and then, “Yessir.  Seems like there was some kind of explosion in the engine room.  We are currently dead in the water sir.  And sinking.”  Starscream started trying to calm his vents from hyperventilating. 

“Acknowledged: Stand by.”  Finally, he found the shut-off valve and pulled, and blessedly the water stopped pouring into the room.  Soundwave got off the berth and made for the door, before hearing the splashes of Starscream behind him.  He turned slowly, meeting the frightening optics of the seeker behind him.  He shook his head.

Starscream nearly cowered.  “L-let me come with you, I c-can help…” he said hoarsely.

In a quick, deft motion, he pulled a syringe from subspace and jammed it into the seeker’s neck.  Starscream looked surprised and then betrayed as he swayed on his pedes and fell back down on the edge of the berth.  “You will only get in the way,” Soundwave offered.  This was a kindness, he thought to himself.  “It is a light dose, so it should not affect your healing.  But I am… sorry.”

He turned and left the seeker who was rapidly falling into unconsciousness.

 

Chapter Text

Starscream was getting tired of waking up like he had a hangover.  His helm ached like the Pit and his entire frame felt like it had been hit by Astrotrain in all of his modes.  As he came to, he distantly saw the blinking red lights in the room and the smell of saltwater.

He sat up, which was his first mistake, hissing at the pounding he felt in his helm.  His limbs were not as responsive as he would have liked, and he distantly felt quite a few flight alarms yelling at him that he was in somewhere far too small for his processor to manage.

Yet again, the realization of his situation washed over him like a crashing wave, pulling each of his wings into a trembling cascade and his mind into a tailspin.  He whimpered as he realized that unfortunately, this time, he was completely alone. Before gaining his full memories again, his spark sought out his trine for help, but they were silent. 

He then commed Soundwave.  Silence.

And Megatron? Silence.

Starscream felt a panicked cry come from his vocalizer.

Now in a full panicked spiral, he desperately ran from the berth to the door, dreading what he would find. To his absolute elation, the door was unlocked.  Opening it, he sank to one knee in relief as he looked down the hallway.  It was empty, dark, splashed in blinked red light, and filled up to his ankles in briny, cold water. 

He felt his mind disassociate but didn’t attempt to stop it.

One time, many, many eons ago, Skyfire had run out of fuel prematurely while they were flying over an ocean planet.  He had been running on fumes but had refused to tell Starscream how much trouble he was in. As he skimmed the water, he fell in.  Skyfire was a much bigger mech and consumed much more energon than Starscream did, though the smaller seeker could burn through the same amount in a burst of speed.  Starscream panicked then too, because to a Cybertronian, there are not much worse things than the crushing pressure of a deep sea.

Deep pressure wasn’t just a hazard to fliers, though they ran into it much more often than others.  Most Cybertronians were land or air mechs, even the organic-based ones were usually land-based.  Even the… land sharks.  There just weren’t a lot of ship, boat, or other aquatic-based alts to go around because in the event of losing buoyancy, there was not much that could be done for a mech that had fallen too far.  Transformers were not perfectly vacuum sealed robots.  They had air in them that would get trapped in pockets and cause issues with pressure differentials as they sank, as heavy and dense as they were.  There were rumors of a water-based planet of Cybertronians called Aquatron, but they had lost contact with that colony eons ago.  Some said that the Quintessons still ruled it, which meant that for all intents and purposes, it was a planet that didn’t exist.

Starscream had shrieked of course, feeling helpless to get the shuttle out.  He dove into the water after him, trying to yell and shriek at Skyfire to keep him awake enough for his internal bilges and buoyancy protocols to activate, but he was quickly slipping into unconsciousness and sinking.  Starscream had reached out to try and grab his friend’s hand, cursing the damn shuttle for not sharing his burden, and cursing himself for not realizing the situation they had been in.

It had been luck then that this ocean was barely 30 feet deep in the section where they were.  Skyfire was 22 feet tall, so this was like diving in a small pool.  The water had been so murky, they couldn’t see to the bottom and hadn’t bothered to throw sensors down as they flew over.  A large land shelf had stopped their descent before Skyfire had fallen further.  They had both started laughing at how scared they had been just seconds before as they were able to get Skyfire enough fuel to get off the relatively shallow ocean floor. 

Earth’s oceans were actually quite terrifying.  The average depth of the Earth’s bodies of water is 12,100 feet.  The deepest point, Challenger Deep, is 36,200 feet deep.  Most transformers, even with their advanced technology would start to be crushed at 500 feet without protection.  Their submarine had a maximum crush depth of 35,000 feet.

Europa’s oceans had a depth of 528,000 feet or 100 miles.  And the last he had heard from Soundwave’s conversation with Motormaster, they were sinking. Uncontrolled.

Running through these numbers was like reciting passages from a sacred text to Starscream.  They kept him from completely losing all sense of self in his fear and physical reaction to the enclosed space and being alone, though they did not paint a pretty picture about what was happening.  He realized with true terror that he had been conditioned, as right now he wanted nothing more than the comforting embrace of Soundwave or Megatron.  Without them, he was falling apart.  The lights continued to click as they went in and out of bright and dim crimson as the sub grumbled with the increasing pressure.

At the end of the hallway, he heard splashes.  It was Rumble.  He saw Starscream kneeling in the doorframe and rushed as fast as he could to the seeker.

“Primus Starscream, things have gone to the Pit,” he said nervously.  He offered a servo to the mech who took it, though Rumble shorter than him.  The contact of the cassetticon helped the seeker focus more on the surroundings.  He silently leaned a servo on the shoulder of the smaller but dense mech, to which Rumble didn’t seem to mind.

“Where is Megatron? Soundwave?” he asked through clenched denta as a shiver ran through his frame.

“Soundwave is at control, out cold.  Megatron… he’s missing. No one knows where he is.”

“…Missing,” Starscream repeated, incredulously.  It’s not as if this boat was as large as the Nemesis!

“Apparently, he was on his way to the engine room, and we got hit with another explosion.  Won’t answer the comms.”

Starscream pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration.  This plan was so slagging stupid from its incarnation.  This was not worth all them dying over!  Especially not him!

“Can you help me get to control?”

“Yeah, boss,” Rumble said guiding the seeker to a crawl shaft.  “But you should know it’s the Stunties in charge up there.”  Starscream felt nausea wash over him, but he also knew they had some things to explain.  And if Megatron and Soundwave couldn’t do it, then it would have to be him.

He managed to crawl up the tight ladder after Rumble as they ascended to a higher deck.


Starscream arrived at control to chaos.

He had expected a megalomaniac who thought he was like Megatron sitting in the captain’s chair, laughing at his devious plan to get the seeker into his clutches or something stupid like that.  But very quickly he realized no one had control of the situation and the Stunticons were almost as terrified as he was.

Motormaster was yelling at the other Stunticons to level out their descent, but it appeared nothing was working.  The bow planes had been damaged somehow and were not responding to their commands.  Motormaster also seemed to be losing himself; shouting, spitting, repeating the same commands over and over.  Comms were still down.  The engine did not respond at all.  It was a miracle they still had lights.  Motormaster noticed Starscream leaning on Rumble and just sneered.  “Oh Primus, I don’t have time for you,” he said angrily.  “Get him off the bridge!”

Starscream just glared at them.  “Where is Soundwave?” he said, leaning a servo against a bulkhead. 

“For frag’s sake, Drag Strip, escort Commander Starscream off the fragging bridge immediately!”

Starscream then saw that Soundwave was unconscious in a chair, apparently having received a blow to the forehead as some energon had congealed on his face.  Drag Strip had hesitated a moment but then was rapidly coming to him and roughly grabbed him by the wrists.  Starscream felt panic as he was being dragged out of control and down the hall.  “Wait, let me help-“ he said as Drag Strip pulled.  “Where’s Hook? Unless you did that to him?”

Drag Strip grunted as Starscream resisted.  “No!  Of course not.  No one is answering their comms, Hook included.  And Soundwave was an accident!  We did the best we could be he’s not waking up.”

Starscream was not convinced but didn’t say so.  “Let me go- I can help, Drag Strip,” Starscream said as his frame began to shake.

Drag Strip hesitated for only a moment after feeling the seeker tremble, but that was all Starscream needed.  He pushed Drag Strip off of him and went back into control and got right into Motormaster’s face who was snarling that the seeker was back.  “LISTEN you fragging block-headed imbecile!  I am going to patch up Soundwave to help get comms back, and then you are going to let me assist you.”

DRAG STRIP!” yelled Motormaster, grabbing Starscream by the wing.  Starscream winced but didn’t move.  Said Stunticon appeared in the doorway looking unsure.

“M, we kinda need his help,” he said carefully.  The other mechs on the bridge looked at Starscream and Motormaster with wide optics.  Finally, most of them just landed Motormaster with hard looks. 

Motormaster growled but threw his servos up in the air.  “Fine!  But if you have a panic attack or whatever, we will throw you in a closet and let you sort it out,” he said menacingly as he went back to working on identifying the problem with controls. 

Starscream pulled out a med kit from inside one of the bulkheads ignoring the threat.  “How did this even happen?”

“Fool was standing too close to a bulkhead when another explosion hit,” Drag Strip said, leaning down to help.  “He kept asking us to be quiet and he was listening to some kind of recording, over and over again.”  Starscream was examining Soundwave’s wound and wincing as it looked bad.  Rumble helped him clean away the energon with a frown.  Starscream pulled out some solder and wire to help bridge the connection again, but his servos were shaking.

Drag Strip looked at him.  “Should you even be doing this?” he asked gently.  “You might cause more damage.”

“You trained in helm surgery?”

Drag Strip rolled his optics.  “No.”

“Then shut the frag up.”  Starscream clenched his servos.  He had done this one time for a test back when he was studying to be an explorer, which felt like eons ago at this point.  “What about Megatron, did he have an accident, too?” he said saucily, throwing his optics to Motormaster.

Motormaster looked like he was about to lose it.  “Megatron went down to check on the engines.  We have not heard back.  We tried to go down there, but there are pipes and debris blocking the way.  We can’t get through.”

Starscream felt his processor ache inside his helm.  The bridge was far too cramped with far too many mechs crowded and far too many things had gone horribly, horribly wrong.  He took a deep breath, clenched his servos and quickly soldered some wires that were exposed in Soundwave’s helm.  He worked at trying to patch whatever damage he could find, knowing that the telepath likely had delicate circuits, but he could at least help him get started on self-repair. He smeared some nanite gel and put a bandage on the patch, hoping it was enough. 

He stood and stretched, thinking as quickly as his processor would allow.  He then looked to Rumble, to Breakdown, and then back to the ceiling.

“Okay, here is how this is going to go.” He attempted to steel himself, and then turned to the mechs.  “Breakdown, accompany Rumble down to the debris.  Rumble will attempt to squeeze passed the debris and clear a path so that we can get to other parts of the ship.  We need to get down to the engines, find Hook, and find Megatron.”

Breakdown looked to Motormaster, who looked a little relieved that a plan was evolving.  He nodded. 

“And Rumble, be careful with your pile-drivers,” Starscream warned.  “Careful.”

“You got it, boss bot!” Rumble and Breakdown ran down the corridor to get to a lower deck.

Starscream turned his gaze back to Soundwave who was still passed out.  Hopefully the fix would start to work soon.  He looked back to Motormaster.  “Where are the manual overrides for the bow planes?”

Dead End responded, “Bow command room,” he said.  “Near Megatron’s quarters.”

“Then get down there and level them out,” he said irritably.

“Gonna take at least three mechs to do that,” Dead End replied.  “Wildrider, myself, and Drag Strip?”

Starscream nodded, flicking his wrist telling them to get going.  His servos had started to shake again, and his processor was running far too fast.  He felt manic and out of control. 

Hey.  You alright?”

He distantly realized he had cleared the bridge of everyone but himself and the lead Stunticon. 

Starscream.  Talk to me.”

Motormaster had closed the distance between them and was now looking at him with an expression.  Starscream couldn’t figure out what it was, couldn’t place it.  He was suspicious.  Wary.  Any number of things could be about to happen now that he was alone, without Soundwave or Megatron to protect him.  He was weak, he was helpless, he had no weapons-

“Snap out of it, Commander!” Motormaster had grabbed his shoulders and shook him, violently.  “I…  I can’t do this without your help,” he said reluctantly.  “I’m… not going to hurt you.”

Starscream felt his optics that had glazed over come back into focus.  He placed a servo on Motormaster’s, gently pushing it away.  “I’m… fine,” he said, more to convince himself than anything.  The truth was, he was at the brink, and he knew it.  But he took a breath and was able to swallow the edge for a little longer.  “What’s our depth?”

Motormaster hardened his look.  “Don’t worry about that,” he muttered.

What is our depth, Motormaster?”  Starscream affixed the Stunticon with is strongest glare.

Motormaster sighed.  “33,540 ft and falling,” he replied.

Starscream managed to keep his face impassive but his wings betrayed his alarm. They were rapidly approaching crush depth where their hull would actually start to buckle; the very thing he had been imagining this entire time.  Starscream looked up at the other side of the room at a slack cable that was hanging from either side of the walls of control.

Starscream remembered coming on the bridge shortly after they had completed work on the submarine.  Rumble and Frenzy had both been particularly cruel to him, talking about science he was already aware of, specs he had memorized by heart, and reminding him of how he got to accompany them in forced vulnerability.  While they had been harassing him, Motormaster and Wildrider had been wordlessly stringing a cable taut across two ends of the control room, giving him an evil, leering glance.  He’d ask what the frag they were doing, and they had merely laughed.

Clearly this was part of the planned payoff.  Not just to annoy him with the idea of it, but likely anyone else who was uncomfortable with their rapidly falling depths.  Even if they didn’t reach total crush depth, the submarine was subject to incredible pressures and the plating did shrink around them. 

Now the cable so sagged that it almost kissed the floor.

“Shouldn’t we have reached these fragging aliens by now?” he said tersely.

Motormaster nodded.  “That was the plan.  But they showed nowhere on radar.”

Starscream slid his optics to Soundwave.  What had he been so fervently listening to?  He walked over to the console and pressed play on that last recording Soundwave had been obsessing over.  The sound that played was mechanical, the sound of their own turbines gliding in the water.  Starscream could discern nothing of note in the recording.  But clearly Soundwave had.

Soundwave stirred with a groan.  Starscream went to him, cradling his helm, earning a look from Motormaster, but the seeker didn’t care.  “Soundwave, you have to wake up even if it hurts,” he said as gently as he could.  The tape-deck pulled a servo up to his helm and coughed roughly.  Eventually his visor flickered back on and he turned to the seeker.

Motormaster had turned his back to them and was playing with the recording with a frowning face.  He was speeding it up and slowing it down on repeat.

Soundwave leaned forward with his helm in his servos.  He grunted, and he was clearly tense with pain.  “Megatron?” he said weakly.

“Trapped in the engine room,” Starscream said, going down to one knee.  “We are rapidly sinking, Soundwave.  Nothing is responding, and we can’t talk to anyone.  The bow planes are being manually straightened, but we need to contact the engine room.”

Soundwave grimaced under his mouthplate but nodded.  He shook his helm.  “Megatron: not responding.”

Starscream felt his spark leap into his throat.  “Then Hook? The Constructicons?”

Soundwave’s visor dimmed as he talking via comms.  Then he turned to Starscream.  “Constructicons: Trapped in Med Bay.  Water has flooded lower deck; bilges nonfunctional.  Med Bay is sealed, and pressure won’t allow them to open the doors.”

Motormaster was listening to the recording and then stopped, he jaw going slack.  “Primus,” he said.

Soundwave exvented.  “Affirmative, I heard the same thing.”

Starscream looked between them with rapid annoyance.  “What?!”

“Someone is in our baffles,” Motormaster said.

Soundwave slowly stood out of the chair.  “Correct: Something has been hiding in our baffles and quite possibly snuck aboard.”

Chapter Text

What?” Starscream said incredulously.  “What do you mean someone is on board?”

Soundwave leaned against the console, typing in some commands to the display.  “Observation: Sound reverberations off hull suggest a small craft has been in our baffles, following us for some time.”  A diagram of the ship came up on the monitor with waves of sound emanating from the screws that powered them underwater.  There were some additional waves that according to the algorithm could only be coming from immediately behind them.

“It would have to be tiny,” Motormaster said.  “Like big enough for one mech.”

“Is it the Autobots?” Starscream asked.

Soundwave answered without looking at them.  “Likelihood of Autobot involvement: 2%.  Likelihood of Europan involvement: 89.12%.”

Starscream sucked in air past his denta in frustration.  “How would they have gotten on board?”

Soundwave typed away on the display again.  “Rendering of craft from sound indicate that it has a docking collar.  Like a parasite, it latches on to the ship, making an airtight seal and allowing the creature inside to get on board.”

“Wouldn’t we have heard them cutting through the hull?”

“Affirmative.  Soundwave should have heard it,” the tape-deck said.  His statement almost sounded full of self-loathing.  He passed a glance at Starscream.  The seeker wasn’t sure how to interpret that look, and was about to be offended, but he noticed Soundwave looking around the bridge.

“Rumble: Location?”

“He’s with Breakdown attempting to get to the engine room for us,” Starscream said.

Soundwave’s entire demeanor changed in an instant.  His visor flashed angrily, and Starscream flinched.  “Rumble: Report.”

“Ahh, boss-bot, it’s good to hear you’re up,” came the pained reply.  Soundwave had the comm on speaker.

“Report: Status,” the tape-deck said.  Starscream knew Soundwave well enough now that he was… worried.

“Well, I can’t say it’s a great sitch by any stretch of the processor,” Rumble replied, grunting in pain.  “I got down here like ‘Screamer asked and managed to get through some of the rubble.  But a partial collapse of the bulkhead got me… stuck.  And uhm, the water is rising, and I think… I’m bleeding somewhere.  Sir.”

Soundwave turned and throttled Starscream up against the bulkhead.  The seeker sputtered his intakes closed off.  “Starscream: You tried to kill Rumble,” Soundwave said menacingly.

“What-no!” Starscream said through the choke.  “No, Soundwave, this was an accident- I would never-“

“Payback for treatment? Betray anyone who cares?  So not like you,” he the tape-deck monotoned, squeezing with fury.  “Maybe you are an imposter?”  Starscream looked at Soundwave with pain in his optics. 

It was always like this, Starscream decided.  He finds someone he genuinely enjoys and somehow, though he might have the best of intentions, it usually just falls apart around him. 

Motormaster must have finally come out of his shock.  He jumped in, pulling Soundwave off of the seeker.  “What the frag, Commander- Starscream made the right call!”

Soundwave,” Starscream said, massaging his neck.  “Soundwave, he’s a soldier, and the only one who could get to Megatron-“

“MEGATRON: THE REASON WE ARE HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE,” Soundwave shouted, not only in their audios but also in their minds.  Motormaster and Starscream winced as they felt the raw slap across their processors.  Soundwave was now holding his helm in his servo, clearly in pain.

“Wait,” Motormaster said, putting a servo on Soundwave.  “Wait, Rumble?  Where’s Breakdown?  Wasn’t he with you?”

There was some static.  “…Uh, yeah, I’ve been calling for him, but he disappeared after I got stuck.”

Soundwave took a turn for the worse.  He grunted and fell back into the chair.  “Breakdown: Unreachable.”  Soundwave frowned under his faceplate and turned to look at Starscream, but the seeker was absent.  He sagged further into his chair.

Motormaster noticed and cursed.  “Where the frag did he go?”

“Eject: Ravage,” Soundwave said hoarsely.  “Assist Starscream.  Assumption: Helping Rumble.”

“In his condition?  Is he insane?”


Starscream was running down the corridor, concentrating on the uneven clicking of his pedes.  He vented shallowly, not so much from the effort but more from the strength of concentrating on his task and not the groaning and pinging of the metal around him.

Soundwave had been that angry before this incident; Starscream had seen it.  It took a lot to get him to this point of almost irrationality, but like all of them, the tape-deck was fallible.  Starscream had often wondered what would happen if faced with the idea of choosing between his cassettes and his loyalty to Megatron, which would he chose?

But Starscream also knew it wasn’t fair to guess that Soundwave would be disloyal to Megatron, not in this scenario.  No, his reaction was likely because Starscream had made the decision for him.  Starscream had taken the choice, taken the agency, put the needs of the ship and the crew above everyone else, and that was in part what had made Soundwave so angry.

Starscream was right.

He heard the feline mini-cassette catch up to him and slow her pace to keep up with him.  She said nothing, and neither did Starscream, both understanding what had transpired and what they needed to do.

Of all of Soundwave’s cassettes, he got along the least with Ravage.  Before this mission, Starscream had liked to think of each cassette as a fragment of Soundwave’s missing personality.  If Rumble and Frenzy representing joy and whimsy, Ravage must exist at a deep opposite somehow.  Is cruelty emotion?  She was immune to the seeker’s charms and didn’t find his antics even remotely interesting.  In fact, he guessed that she thought very little of him, in all senses of the phrase. 

She made her displeasure of him known in other ways. Little dead organic creatures miraculously would show up in his berth after she had been out on a scouting mission.  He always publicly blamed Skywarp, but always knew it had been her.

They reached the debris and Starscream could just barely make out Rumble’s diminutive frame.  “Rumble, I’m here,” he said leaning against the pipes that blocked the corridor like some kind of bars on a jail cell.  The water was freezing and was rising, as it was already up to Rumble’s chest.

“Starscream?” the cassetticon said incredulously.  “Starscream, I’m going to drown,” he said pathetically.

Starscream managed to stop his roll of optics but could not hold back his retort.  “You don’t need air to breathe, Rumble, you’re a fragging robot,” he said, hissing through his denta.  “You can cycle the water, just be sure to engage your secondary filters and bilges.  The salt will be hell to your systems, but Hook can sort it out later.”

While the cassette would not drown, Starscream suspected that Rumble was still in trouble.

Starscream had managed to get an arm through the debris and his servo found Rumble’s and the cassette was shaking as he grabbed hold of the seeker.  The seeker felt his spark sink.  He had caused this by sending the little one down here; and he had so eagerly gone.  No wonder Soundwave hated him.

Starscream pulled and found that Rumble’s pede was caught.  The little cassette cried out a little in pain as his ankle twisted and he squeezed so hard on Starscream’s servo that he dented it in some places. 

“Star, please stop,” he said with static in his voice.  “I think I’m pinned tight here.”

Starscream’s red optics flicked at Rumble’s faceplate.  He was looking wan, and his intakes were ragged.  “You told Soundwave you were bleeding.  Where?”

The cassette swallowed thickly with some panic as the water was up to neck as he was pinned in a prone position.  “I-I think it’s in my pede, but this water… I can’t feel anything anymore.”

Starscream tried not to show his alarm.  If Rumble was starting to lose feeling, that could well be from the briny ice water that was pouring into the ship, but it could also be from severe energon loss.

The seeker released Rumble and put his helm under the water, activating some biolights on his frame that would light the murky depths so that he could see what he was working with.  Through the debris cage, he saw that not only was Rumbe’s pede crushed under a pipe, but it was impaled as well.  The cassette had not been lucky.

Starscream pushed himself as far as he could through the bars of the debris, feeling his wings complain about being stretched against his struts.  His wings were the things that were blocking him from being able to fit through.  He managed to get enough leverage under the water to reach the offending pipe that had impaled the cassette.  He pulled, hard.

He emerged out of the water to hear the end of an anguished cry from Rumble.  Ravage was pawing at the debris, trying to reach him, but there was not much she could do. 

Starscream grabbed a hold of Rumble now and felt some of the debris move, but he still couldn’t quite get the leverage.  “Ravage,” he said.  “I need you to help me pull him out.”

She looked distressed, and it was clear she didn’t understand what he wanted her to do.

He turned to lock optics with her.  “Dig your claws into my back and pull.  We’ll get him out,” he said trying to reassure her.  She agreed, and climbed her front paws onto his back, extending the claws to knead the plating on his back to test for firmness.  He gritted his denta, and then nodded.

The pain was a bright burn, radiating across his shoulders.  He grunted and then grabbed a hold of Rumble and pulled.  Together, they were able to pull him free, and he was nearly beside himself with relief as he clambered through the opening and into Starscream’s arms.

Ravage retracted her claws, almost as if guilty and was nuzzling Rumble who was clearly traumatized.  Starscream cycled some intakes and then turned the cassette to examine his mangled pede.  It dripped slower now, but it was clear the cassette was in a bad state.

Starscream reached into the wound and crimped some of the lines, with loud complaints from the mini-cassette.  Starscream ignored him and then deposited him on Ravage’s back.

“Get him back to Soundwave,” he ordered, standing shakily and heading towards the opposite end of the ship towards some of the ladders to the lower decks.  Ravage nodded, and Rumble protested but the feline cassette was far too quick.

Starscream watched them go, the dim red lights still blinking in the corridor as water still filled the ship.  He felt some exhaustion tug at his frame, some distant feeling in his coding of imminent collapse approaching. 

But he still had too much to do.

He felt himself want to laugh a little.  Here he was, leader of the Decepticons.  See his inheritance.

Starscream found the ladder he needed to take down.  It was of course completely flooded.  It was dark.  It was cramped.  And he was alone.  He wasn’t sure how long he stared into the space, but he guessed it was more than a few kliks.  Finally, he sighed and descended head-first into watery opening, using the ladder rungs to help him descend.

Chapter Text

The water was freezing.  Now that it washed against his intakes, he could feel his filters attempting to parse out the salt and other minerals in the water. It was the lash of cold that made his digits and pedes burn in pain.  It would not be long before they were numb. 

Starscream had been built for space travel, so being cold was not something that should bother him.  But the cold wetness of this water was different somehow.  It was the same kind of problem that had eventually taken Skyfire.

Why did he keep thinking of the shuttle?  It was like this whole experience was unraveling his memories and throwing off his normal thought processes.  Maybe this was the defrag problem that Hook had mentioned.  Maybe he wasn’t that far away from being one of those drooling mechs they wheeled into his academy lecture hall all those years ago.

He reached the bottom of the ladder and swam through the tight corridor, avoiding debris.  It was on this level, just a few feet away that he saw the Constructicons trapped in the med bay behind a windowed door.  Scrapper noticed him and waved dumbly as the seeker swam through the water, his biolights lighting around him like some kind of organic sea creature.  He saw Scrapper yell to the other Constructicons, and they all came over to the sealed door.  They looked at the seeker in shock and surprise, and kept indicating their helms, clearly trying to comm him.

Finally, Soundwave’s pained and quiet voice came through in the comm.  “Starscream:…”

Starscream held his audio with his middle digit, signaling to the Constructicons that he had received it.  “Starscream: The Constructicons know where the damage is to the hull, but they can’t reach it.  They want to guide you through on how to repair it.”

Starscream nodded for the benefit of the Constructicons.  “I understand,” he replied to Soundwave.  “What do I need to do?”

“You shouldn’t have left control,” Soundwave sad sadly.  “And I shouldn’t have… I shouldn’t have blamed you.  You made the right decision.”

“Soundwave,” Starscream said gently.  “I am barely holding it together.  I need instructions.”

Come back to control.  We can send Motormaster down there instead,” Soundwave replied, some distress coming through in the comm.

“There is no time,” Starscream said, looking at the Constructicons and behind them, his sleeping seekers.  He held up a servo and pointed down the hallway with a questioning look to the mechs looking at him.  They nodded emphatically.  Starscream swam deeper into the hallway, the red emergency lights reflecting off floating debris of energon cubes and datapads.

He heard Soundwave sigh, and he allowed himself a small smirk.  He didn’t really want the tape-deck to feel guilty, but the petty part of him didn’t mind it either.  “Keep heading down the hallway.  The breach in the hull is on your right.

Starscream found the breach.  “Affirmative,” he replied.  The hole was wide enough that Starscream could slide through.  The force of water coming in was quite strong, and the seeker found he had to lean forward towards it to avoid being pushed backward.

He wished he had not looked out through the breach.  Past the thick hull, he saw inky, terrible blackness.  It was the amorphous quality to it, like looking in the maw of giant, hungry predacon, coming to crush your helm for no other reason than it would please it.  He knew he was looking through darkness of hundreds of thousands of feet, and it just kept going and going to the very bottom of terrible, crushing depth.  It stared at him, seized his fuel tanks and stalled his processor completely. 

St-s-c-m,” came the noise in his audios. 

He remembered when he had first step foot on this accursed submarine to inspect it.  He had been dealing with insubordination from the seekers the entire decacycle, but that day had been particularly bad.  He had turned on Scrapper as he was working in this very corridor and snarled.

“You honestly think this boat is going to work?  It’s terrible!  It’ll leak!  It’ll just sink to the bottom!”

Scrapper had arched an optic-ridge.  “Be a slagging awful submarine if it didn’t sink, Commander,” the Constructicon had replied, earning him raucous laughter from any mech within earshot.

Starscream,” the seeker heard again bringing him back to the present.  “The Constructicons say you are shaking, Starscream.  Talk to me.”

The seeker felt himself start to fall backward as his will to plant his pedes in front of the breach began to wane.  “It’s so deep Soundwave.  It’s so… dark.  I’m losing myself.”

He could hear Soundwave on the end of the comm, his voice coming through wispy and light.  “Starscream I need you to close your optics for me.”

Starscream complied, happily.  He couldn’t deal with his environment anymore.

Starscream, I need you to think of the sky…” the tape-deck said, calmly. 

Starscream did.

“I’ve seen the perfect sky you have in your mind,” Soundwave continued.  “I was surprised to find it was on Earth of all places.”  The tape-deck made a noise like he was shifting slightly.  “It’s sunset and there is nothing but bright orange and blue horizon stretching as far as you can see.  You’re high up, but low enough that everything below you is moving extremely fast as you fly unencumbered by anything.”  Starscream knew exactly what memory this was, and he gladly accessed it and let it wash over his systems.

In the distance is a giant cumulonimbus cloud, and you think idly that it looks taller than even the towers of Iacon and Vos.  It looks to me to be about 40,000 feet tall, so I would have to agree with you,” Soundwave said.  It was an oddly comforting thing to have Soundwave going through the memory with him, as if he had been there.  No, at the time, Starscream had been quite alone. 

Everything is glowing in oranges and yellows, and there are some dark purples casting long shadows across the ground.  The air is cool and there is no one that can stop you.  The sky beckons you and you are able to claim it.”

Starscream sighed.  He slowly opened his optics and felt all the fear he had before receding from his mind.  It was still there, but it was quieted. For now.

“I’m back, Soundwave,” he said quietly.  “What do I need to do?”

He heard an audible pause before the tape-deck continued.  “In the bulkhead behind you in a compartment with a seal kit inside.  You will need to open it up.”

Starscream turned and found the compartment.  It required a lot of effort for him to pull off the plating to access the compartment, but he was finally able to do so with a grunt.  Inside he did find the kit and pulled it over to the breach.

“Got the kit.”

Now you will need a torch inside, and you will need the sealing patch.  Hook says that you will likely need three and will need to weave them together to make a complete seal.  And you need to make sure you grab the magnesium torch; you are going to be wet welding through a stick weld, using the torch to help create a bubble to prevent oxidation.  Scrapper says to be careful of bubbles.”

Starscream felt his familiar bristle rise to the surface.  He fragging knew how to do a stick weld, for crying out loud, and he knew how to avoid bubbles.  But he allowed them to guide him through the process like he was some kind of processor-reduced sparkling.  It allowed his mind not to wander. 

The patch wasn’t perfect, but it was holding which was the main point.  It had taken over a cycle to be almost complete, as Starscream had to take breaks to warm up his servos and get feeling back for the finer details of the work.

“How is the rest of the crew?” Starscream asked as the silence had grown deafening in his audios.

Most are trapped in quarters on lower levels.  Plenty of injuries, no reported casualties.  Still cannot raise Megatron.”

Starscream frowned at that, a cold feeling washing down his back between his wings. Fragger doesn’t even get to see me doing all this work to save our sorry afts.  He’s just going to sweep in at the last second and take all the credit.

“The patch is holding,” he said tiredly.  He felt a swell of exhaustion now that the job is done, and he couldn’t help but lean his servo and forehead on the bulkhead above the patch.  He felt his wings sag as his ragged processor twinged at the absence of actively puzzling through something.

He wasn’t above it now.  He wanted to be held.

Just one more thing and then you can rest.  We need to get the bilge pumps back online,” the voice said.  “Hook is asking about how you are feeling.”

Starscream turned around to look at the Constructicon still waiting at the glass window in the door.  The mech’s white faceplate and red visor was staring at him with concern, while the palm of his servo was up on the glass itself.  Starscream threw the mech a tired smile and just turned back around.  “Tell him I’m still waiting for my high-grade cocktail, if he’d be so kind.  Just enjoying this paradise,” he quipped, swimming down the hallway and further out of the view of the med bay to where the main bilge pumps were stored beneath the flooring.

He pulled on the floor panels and they gave way, floating serenely away.  What greeted him were several quiet bilge pumps, not even cycling on.  “They aren’t getting power,” he said, kneeling and flicking a wrist light on, scanning them and their connections. 

Hold a moment,” Soundwave said, clearly having other conversations.  In the waiting silence, Starscream began to feel the creeping panic again.  Cycling his intakes would do very little this time to calm him as the cold water continued to numb his systems.

They are asking if you can see any broken wires; the only other possibility is if there is something wrong at the batteries.  We wouldn’t have lights or heaters if they were dead.”

Starscream looked.  “Then I suppose it is to the batteries I must go.  There is nothing wrong here,” he said, wrapping his arms around himself and rubbing his upper arms. 

“Do you need a break?” Soundwave asked through the comm.  “The batteries are located one deck lower.”

Starscream winced at this revelation.  “I can’t feel anything anymore, I won’t be much use until I defrost,” he said at last.  “There are some stairs nearby, I’m going up.”

Affirmative,” Soundwave said.  “Check in with me in half a cycle.”

Starscream shivered as he pulled himself up the narrow stairway, seeing that the water stopped about halfway up the stairs.  He emerged from the water, feeling it pour out of his frame and splash at his pedes.  He stood there, on the last step, hunched over and shivering, trying to get his intakes under control.

A servo entered his field of vision, held out as if to help.  He looked up, alarmed, and saw the smiling orange faceplate of Breakdown. 

Starscream felt confusion.  He glanced down the hallway to his left and saw the mess of debris that was the opposite side of the pile that Rumble had been caught in.  Breakdown’s presence here didn’t make much sense.

But even mentally impaired, Starscream understood to play along.  He took the outstretched servo and allowed himself to be fully pulled out of the water and into the corridor.

“How’re you holding up, Commander?”

“Right as acid rain, Breakdown,” he said, silently turning on is comm.  “Or as well as could be expected,” he said allowing a small smile to show up on his faceplate as he rubbed his servos together to try and warm them up.  “Were you able to find Megatron?” he asked, trying to throw an innocent glance up at the Stunticon.

“There’s more debris up ahead blocking the engine room,” Breakdown said.  “I tried to call through it, but I didn’t get any kind of reply, so he’s either unconscious or in the second engine room farther down,” the Stunticon said, his optics trained on Starscream’s faceplate.

Starscream nodded.  “Good work, Breakdown,” Starscream said trying not to look too hard at a pipe laying nearby that looked like a good weapon.

“I’m really glad you made it down here, sir,” Breakdown said.

“Starscream, try to stall him,” Soundwave said in his comm audio.  Luckily it seemed the tape-deck had been listening along enough to guess something was wrong.

“Really? And why’s that?” Starscream said, addressing the mech in front of him and Soundwave at the same time. 

“Motormaster and Wildrider are on their way down to you.  Try to keep him talking.”

“You’re the one they want,” Breakdown said, his optics shining in the darkness.

Starscream felt his intakes stop for a moment as he froze.  Then he smiled, his fanged delta clenched to avoid chattering in his mouth.  “Well of course they do.  But what in particular makes me so desirable?”

Breakdown cocked his helm to the side.  “You’re the one who fired the missile into the debris, correct?”

Starscream sighed.  “You didn’t give us any instructions on how to find you, so I’m not sure what you expected,” he said trying to imperceptibly tense his frame so that he could move quickly when the time came.

This creature that was clearly not Breakdown moved closer to Starscream.  “You’re absolutely right.  We should not have expected any intelligence from prey,” it said dangerously.

That about did it for Starscream.

With every ounce of strength he had left, Starscream launched to the side and tumbled to grab the pipe off the ground and in a swift, languid movement, he swung it towards the creature.  He hit it in the side of the helm with a sickening THWACK, and it gave an otherworldly shriek as it held its helm in its servos.

Starscream ran as quickly as he could towards the engine room, praying to Primus he could get through the debris before the creature recovered.

Chapter Text

Starscream was running as fast as his pedes would carry him, his sparkbeats loud in his audios.  Behind him, he still heard the pained noises of Breakdown and then accompanying splashes as the thing started running behind him trying to catch up.  Starscream felt like he was going to choke on his panic.

Starscream: Give position,” crackled his comm.

“I’m headed towards the engine room- AGH!” he cried as some debris sailed past his helm, barely missing him.  He spared a glance over his shoulder to see the Stunticon’s frame still advancing and cursing that it had missed him.

What is wrong?  Are you injured-“

“Not yet, but Soundwave, I really don’t have the time,” Starscream said through clenched denta and muted the comm.  He dashed around the corner and then saw the entrance to the engine room.  It was blocked by debris but he did see a hole that he could maybe move some things around to get by.  He quickly dove into it, scratching and pulling on anything he could find to widen the hole, while also hazarding a look behind him to pray that the Stunticon’s frame hadn’t caught up.

Dimly he wondered about that.  Was it actually Breakdown being controlled by something?  Did it just look like him?  He honestly couldn’t tell, and his processor ached from even trying to think through it.

Splashes were getting louder now, and he whined a little.  Thinking that it would be enough, he pushed his wings as tightly as he could against his back and started to crawl through the small hole.  He was making some progress, but then he felt his shoulder vent get snagged against a pipe. He tried to back up a little to get around the pipe when he felt someone grab his pede.

“Come now, Commander, there is no reason to run,” he heard from behind him.  Starscream keened as he kicked and tried to pull himself forward.  The servo on his pede was squeezing and he felt the plating start to be crushed.

Please, just stop,” he said clenching his denta.  “I’ve just had the worst decacyle,” he said tersely, trying to kick again.  Luckily it seemed Breakdown couldn’t quite get him out.  Starscream saw the opening on the other side of the debris that led into the engine room was close and kept trying to pull forward.  He distantly heard additional splashing, and a grunt as the crushed force of his pede disappeared.

“What did you do with Breakdown?!” Starscream heard Motormaster say as they clearly fought.  Starscream pulled himself farther into the hole now his upper half was out of the hole.

“You okay, ‘Screamer?” Wildrider said, just as Starscream landed on the ground on the other side of the debris.  The seeker looked through the hole at the Stunticon who had attacked him only a few days previous.  Wildrider seemed to share the same kind of discomfort as the same thought crossed his mind.  Starscream would have sneered but he was just tired. 

“I’m fine, just help Motormaster,” he said, suppressing a shudder.  There were muffled noises and splashes of a fight still occurring on the other side of the wall.

Wildrider gave him a funny look and muttered something like “sorry” under his breath.  He disappeared.

Starscream took in his new surroundings.  The first engine room was dimly lit by an amber light, with a red blinking light still denoting the ship’s state of emergency.  There was a narrow aisle that someone could walk between the large bulk of the two engine blocks, about half Starscream’s height but about three times as long.  They had a series of gauges and pipes that were coming out of them.  Starscream inspected them and turned back on his comm.

“Soundwave-“

ARE you alright?” he felt the telepath practically yell into his comm.

“Yes,” Starscream replied, wincing at the strength of Soundwave’s voice.  “Motormaster and Wildrider appeared at the right time.”  Starscream flicked at a gauge on the engine with his digits, noticing that the pressure was low.  “I’m in the first engine room,” he said.  He looked around and didn’t see anything that was noticeably damaged.  And no Megatron.

“He must be in the second engine room,” he said quietly, his optics glancing to the hatch that would lead down to the next room.

He could hear Soundwave pause, debating on whether to tell Starscream to relax and wait for help, or to ask him to continue on and try and help their leader.  Starscream sighed and knew that the tape-deck was going to take too long to come to a decision.

The seeker opened the comm fully so that Soundwave could hear his pede-steps and small splashes; the time for weighing the pros and cons decided.  He pulled the wheel on the door to open it, and it did give way with some difficulty.  He descended a small set of stairs and turned around the bend, seeing more chaos in this engine room.

He found Megatron on the ground, unconscious under one of the main engine blocks.

Starscream scrambled into the room, his servos fluttering over Megatron’s frame, trying to see the damage.  There was some energon on the ground from a wound in Megatron’s arm, but the most egregious injury was his side that was being crushed by the engine.  Starscream feared the internal damage might be so severe that moving the block might actually do more harm than good.  It might actually be blocking the energon from flowing out of his wound, which if removed might make him bleed out. 

It was in this moment that Starscream thought of all the times he had tried to offline Megatron, or otherwise remove him from being their leader.  This was the moment that he could achieve everything he had ever wanted.

But frag, he was so damn tired.

He wanted nothing more than Megatron’s stalwart leadership to take over and get them out of this mess.  Starscream felt his frame shake a little from exhaustion, just completely done with everything.  He needed Megatron’s strength, even if it was tyrannical. 

Maybe he could think about taking over the Decepticons later.

He glanced around and found the compartment that had a rudimentary medkit in it.  He pulled it out and tried to patch Megatron’s wounded side that way he could then try to remove the engine block.  He didn’t think he was strong enough to do it even if he had all his faculties and didn’t feel like his processor was skipping.

He turned his attention to Megatron’s arm and hastily patched it, trying to find any other damage.  If there was more, it was internal.  He looked at the warlord who was frowning slightly in his unconsciousness, and Starscream sighed. 

He grabbed the shot of adrenaline that was in in the kit and stabbed it into the warlord’s neck. 

Megatron’s optics onlined and widened in shock.  He then groaned in pain and tried to move, discovering he was pinned.  He optics roved around and saw Starscream beside him.

“Here to finish the job?” he said, his vocalizer pained.

Starscream looked down his nose at him, his optics slightly dimmed with annoyance.  “Considered it, of course.  But sadly, it’s too much effort right now.”  Starscream suppressed a shudder.  “Are you going to offline?” he asked quietly.

Megatron looked slightly concerned at the seeker.  “Not yet it appears.  Someone patched me up,” he said with a wry smile.  “You look like slag.”

Starscream scoffed, but it was weaker than his usual bluster.  “And you look resplendent, lord Megatron,” Starscream quipped back.  His wings dipped behind him.  He felt some of his systems finally start to cool and relax from the constant anxiety they had been activated for the past few cycles.  He felt his helm sag a little, drawing himself closer to Megatron.  “Can you lift it off of you?  I will try and help.”

“You look like you couldn’t lift an energon cube, but let's try."

Starscream moved and positioned his arms to try and tip the engine off of Megatron to the side.  Megatron nodded and pushed with all his might as Starscream huffed and did the same.  The engine shifted but did not fully release Megatron from its weight.  Starscream cried out as he tried to push with every ounce of strength he had left, but it wasn’t enough.  They both stopped and relaxed in disappointment.  Starscream leaned his forehead against the engine and then punched it, angrily.

Megatron looked wan as a new part of his frame was now under the engine, but he just looked up at the seeker and reached out a steadying hand on Starscream’s arm.  “We made progress.  We just need a little more help,” he said gently. 

Starscream absentmindedly placed his own servo over Megatron’s.  “I need you,” he said.  It was almost like there was supposed to be more to that sentence, but Starscream never finished.

“It’s too bad he can’t help you,” came a low voice from behind him.

Starscream’s helm whipped around as Breakdown reached down and grabbed Starscream by the throat.

Megatron bellowed and tried to move the engine off him again, as Breakdown hauled Starscream away. The seeker was thrashing and attempting to shriek through the hold but couldn’t break out of it.  “We called to your kind to bring you down here to devour you,” the creature said.  “We have heard your chatter on Earth for some time now and are interested in you creatures of Primus.” 

Starscream wheezed, his optics glazed over in agony.  He felt his internal temperature rise as his intakes were blocked, and his secondary vents were clogged with salt. He felt everything that had happened to him in the past few weeks catch up to him as he felt the twinges of unconsciousness flutter his optics.

“Oh no, we can’t have that,” Breakdown said, dropping the seeker to the ground.  Starscream was clutching his throat, trying to steady his breathing as he coughed. 

“You were supposed to be trapped between the layers of 'debris,'” Breakdown said, his vocalizer echoing of something else, something… dark.  “But then you got clever, didn’t you?  You started to blow up the 'debris.'  You dared destroy our net,” he said, kicking Starscream in the fuel tanks.  Starscream curled in on himself, trying to protect his internals.  He was keening now, so frightened, so scared.  He still heard Megatron yelling angrily from the other room, but Starscream was rapidly feeling resignation whisper into his processor.

“You shouldn’t have been able to get around that 'debris,'” he said angrily.  Starscream noticed the inflection on the word "debris" and he began to wonder if it was debris at all.  “It was the perfect net.  At first, I thought it was because of this one whose visage I have taken since he was navigating, but now I understand it was you who got around it.” He leaned down and got in Starscream’s faceplate.  “I’ve been watching you very closely, Cybertronian, and you are too clever to leave alone,” Breakdown said.  “So, I think I will break you.”  Starscream felt his optics go wide as he tried to get away.

Starscream felt the creature grab his wings and he screamed.  He was then thrown against the wall.  His helm connected and he grunted in pain and he heard his comms go out.

But his vocalizer still worked.

“You know,” Starscream said through a static in his voice, “I think we are going to enjoy killing all of you.”

The creature picked him up with a snarl and threw him down into a storage locker.  Then he closed the lid.  Starscream froze in the darkness on his back as he heard the clicking of the locker being sealed.

It was so… tight.

He shrieked hysterically, his breaths already ragged.  He thrashed and found he couldn’t move properly; couldn’t turn, couldn’t twist, couldn’t even fully extend his legs for a kick.  He heard himself keen in broken, pained sobs.  Still, with whatever energy he had left, he scratched at the lid and pushed.

It wasn’t going to budge.

He cried out for Megatron.  For Soundwave.  He started just saying everyone’s name, even throwing in some Autobots for good measure.  He felt his clawed servos dig into the metal and not even scratch it.

He knew he was still screaming and begging, but he couldn’t hear it anymore.  It was gibberish, it was static.  His throat burned.  There was no substance to his vocalizations other than fear, and need, and desperation.  He hugged himself, and it afforded no comfort.  His wings felt like they were dying, suffocating themselves with heat and lack of air flow.  He felt washer fluid flow in hot, aching tears down his face as he felt his frame becoming limp.

He wasn’t thinking much now.  His processor tried to access :sky: like it had earlier with Soundwave, but he had lost access to giving commands to his processor at some point.  He was a passenger now as his mind reeled and showed him things he had thought he had forgotten.  The exact shade of Skyfire’s optics.  The smell of Megatron’s frame right after he had fired his cannon.  Thundercracker’s hateful look as Starscream said something insensitive again.  The feel of Skywarp’s claws.  Brutal hatred from an Autobot he had killed.  He felt… [broken.]

He wasn’t making any broken noise now. His intakes spurned and hitched, but his vocalizer had fritzed out.  His audios also felt like they had stopped working- likely related to his vocalizer.  He could no longer feel his wings.  He was floating in nothing in the broken darkness.  The only light was from his own optics, and they gradually became more and more dim.

Then there was broken nothing he could really perceive anymore.  He was so tired broken that he couldn’t even begin to think about how much he hurt broken.  He was floating in nothing in the darkness broken.  The only light was from his own optics and they gradually became more broken dim.

He wasn’t making any broken noise now.  Broken.

Broken.

B̼͚͙̝̼̦͎͔̅ͣͤ̈̕r̸͇̲͓̲̪̣͆o̵̗̪̘̙̹ͦ̾k̛͚ͫ̊̎̚-

 

 

 

 


But right at the edge of breaking, he was pulled out of the locker and into Megatron’s arms.

Chapter Text

Megatron had not seen Breakdown appear, and that had unnerved him.  In a last-ditch effort, he attempted to grab Starscream from the Stunticon’s grasp before he could haul him away, but he had been too slow.  He saw Starscream’s frightened face as they disappeared out of the room, and he would never forget it for the rest of his life.

Then came his seeker’s screaming.

Megatron was yelling into his comms, throwing orders at Soundwave.  The usually patient tape-deck was unnerved and sent every able-bodied soldier down there to clear the debris to get to them.  Megatron bellowed as he attempted to move the engine off of him, and it moved a little but not enough to get fully free.

“He’s screaming, Soundwave,” Megatron snarled.  “I can’t get to him, and he’s screaming.”

He could feel the cold fury on the other end of the line.  They will pay.”

The force through the words was about as strong as Megatron had suspected it would be.  He was not unaware of Soundwave’s newfound affection for his second, and he had intended to separate them.  But now… he wasn’t sure about anything. 

Gritting his denta, he pushed his searingly sore arms into the engine block and heaved, angrily yelling at the max volume his vocalizer would allow.  Finally, the engine moved.  He pulled himself up, limping out of the engine room, ready to destroy anything that got in his way.

Breakdown was waiting for him. 

He barreled into Megatron, punching him and absolutely playing dirty by aiming for Megatron’s injured side.  But the warlord was not a newspark in fighting dirty.  As the punch landed, Megatron twisted, allowing the blow to glance off the wound rather than fully connect. 

The gunformer then spun and ducked down a little and fell into a boxer’s stance.  Megatron punched fully forward into the frame of the Stunticon, then punched again with his other servo.  He seemed to have knocked him back and Megatron took a step forward. He lined up for another combo.  The Stunticon righted himself and tried to swipe back at Megatron, but the gunformer was able to easily dodge to the side and give another punch into the chassis of the mech.

Breakdown snarled in anger and surged forward to try wrap his servos around Megatron’s throat.  The Decepticon leader smirked as his servos met the Stunticon’s.  The stood there like two powerful titans, clenched denta and pained growls.  Megatron then threw Breakdown’s servos to the side, and the Stunticon lost his balance.

Megatron grabbed the seams in Breakdown’s faceplate and squeezed.

He felt and heard buckling plating and the warbling, pained cry under his servos as he ripped Breakdown’s faceplate off.

But then it was clear that it wasn’t actually Breakdown, because behind the faceplate was some kind of gelatinous substance, slightly translucent and disgustingly soft.

Soft he could work with.

He jabbed his servo into the creature’s head and pulled, snarling in anger as the creature tensed in agony.  Megatron was still holding onto the fleshy mass as he kicked the rest of the frame and he felt the two separate with a SNAP.

The wriggling thing in his servo twitched and then went still as it apparently had expired.  He dropped it with disgust and happily stepped on it, grinding it into the deck.  The form he had been fighting with flickered and Megatron then saw that it was nothing more than a blank protoform, apparently with some kind of chameleon or cloaking ability to take on the form of someone else.

In the silence, he realized the screaming had stopped.

Megatron felt the ice of fear grip his tanks and he looked around the now-empty first engine bay.  He heard distant shouting as mechs began to appear in the corridor to try and dig them out of the engine room, but otherwise the room was deathly silent.

He searched the area, dreading what he would find around a corner, expecting to see the eviscerated form of his second, or maybe pieces of him.  Distantly he wondered why the seeker had been targeted but could not devote any processing power to the thought to parse it out.

Then he saw the closed storage locker, and he realized it had been open when he had been looking for repair tools earlier.  And it had been empty.

He quickly went to it and tried the lock.  He kept inputting the code incorrectly as his servos shook, his face contorting into a snarl. Finally, with a bellow he bent his knees and pulled up, feeling the lid bend and snap against his sheer strength of will.

And there he was.  He looked so small.

Megatron was numb.  There were times when he had wanted his second offlined.  There were times he had nearly done it himself.  But now, Megatron had the hope that they could find a way to coexist, and maybe even stand by each other rather than at the opposite ends of two fatal weapons. 

“Starscream,” Megatron breathed, not trusting the tremor in his vocalizer.  He reached down and grabbed Starscream’s chin, tilting it towards him to meet his optics.  “Can you hear me?” he said gently.

Starscream’s unfocused optics looked at him at first without recognition. Then they came back into focus and filled with such relief and happiness, Megatron's intakes stalled.  He was frozen for a moment in time, amazed that anyone was happy to see him in this way. He then reached down and pulled Starscream out of the box.  He was lighter than Megatron remembered. 

The seeker gently scrabbled to wrap his weak arms around Megatron’s neck and bury his face there.  At first, the gunformer was stilled, his servos hovering over Starscream’s back giving a slight twitch with uncertainty. Then Starscream gave a silent, racked sob, and Megatron felt everything give way.

He wrapped his arms around Starscream with more intimacy and gentleness than he believed even he was capable of.  He tightened around the fragile creature, trying to give comforting pressure but not hurt him.

He carried him to the side of the room.  The warlord leaned his back against the wall and slid down, with the seeker in his arms across his lap.  Megatron wasn’t sure what to do exactly, so he lifted a servo and began to pet Starscream’s helm like he had in the berth before.  The seeker shivered, but it was more in an expression of pleasure at the touch than of fear. 

Relief was radiating off of the mech in his arms in gentle waves.  Megatron cleared his vocalizer.  “Where are you injured?” he asked lowly, gently.

The seeker leaned back weakly, pushing into Megatron’s touch but also trying to be able to see the warlord’s face.  Starscream looked weak, but also soft somehow.  Megatron had never seen him like this before, and he was worried.  The seeker brought his servo to Megatron’s, wrapping it lightly around the warlord’s wrist and pulled it to touch his vocalizer.  Megatron could feel sickly warm heat coming off of his vocalizer components in his throat through the plating.

“You cannot speak?” he asked.  The seeker did not respond, but he bit his lower lip as he suppressed a hiss of pain.  He moved the servo to the side of his helm and looked at Megatron again, pointedly.

“Your audios, and comms as well,” Megatron sighed, gently stroking where his servo had been placed.  Starscream’s intakes were still ragged, but they were at least slow and rhythmic.  Megatron shook his head, squeezing his second a little closer to himself.  He couldn’t believe how foolish he had been to risk losing Starscream to possess Starscream.  

Why had he done this?  This experiment had started out on a whim; an opportunity.  He had stubbornly believed with just a little bit more pushing, he would have the Starscream he had always wanted.  The young jet-alt who had looked at him with reverence and awe and had dedicated himself to the Decepticon cause.  The seeker he had somehow lost along the way to this moment. 

Starscream had begun to be a stand-in for everything that Megatron had been denied when he was a miner and then a gladiator.  Something beautiful, something relatively and vaguely fragile, something he could possess and something that begged to be possessed.  All things he was not allowed to have.

But Starscream was smiling slightly, and Megatron’s optic-ridges knit in confusion.  What in the Pit could Starscream possibly have to smile about-

The seeker reached up a weak servo and pulled Megatron’s helm down to his, and met the warlord in a gentle kiss.  Megatron's optics widened in shock and he registered the dim amusement in his second’s optics.  He relaxed against the seeker, moving his servo to cradle his helm and kiss him deeper. 

Starscream’s intakes hitched a little as he closed his optics.  Megatron tilted his helm to press harder into the seeker’s mouth, trying to have him deeper as if Starscream might disappear at any moment.  When he had imagined it, he had always thought this first kiss with Starscream would be heated, passionate, dominating, and possessive.  The reality of this kiss was that he felt unmade and undone, weakly tethered to the winged creature he adored.

The seeker trembled in his arms grew weaker.  Megatron pulled out of the kiss, his optics roving over Starscream’s face with concern.  The seeker just had a feeble, self-satisfied grin as his servo dropped from Megatron’s helm.  His optics met Megatron’s and then fluttered closed.

The seeker’s helm lolled backward, and he was limp.  Megatron panicked until he felt the frame he held was still alive, still spark-beats and intakes. He had just slipped into recharge.

“Soundwave,” Megatron commed.  “I have him, but he’s unconscious.”

There was a pause and then “Hook will be there soon.” Then, after a moment, “Talk to him.”

Megatron sighed in the dim amber light of the engine room.  “He won’t be able to hear me.”

Lord Megatron: Not the point,” Soundwave said, perhaps with a small hint of an edge.

Megatron was looking at the seeker who was unnervingly still.  Starscream had always been so full of life, of fire, of arrogance.  If he was quiet, he was plotting.  Sometimes plotting for Megatron, but also just as often against him.  But now… this silence was chilling.

He leaned his helm back against the hull.  “I remember our first conversation when we first met.  You were cloyingly sweet with your adorations of the cause; I almost wrote you off as just another sycophant.  But your optics were saying something different.  You were challenging me, but not ready to say it yet.”  Megatron closed his optics.  “Eventually I couldn’t shut you up about it,” he added wistfully.

The seeker did not stir, and Megatron felt like a fool talking to this mech in his arms.  But he was compelled to continue.

“When we first were about to go on this mission, I told you to stop flying because I was tiring of the display.  That was a lie.  I never tire of watching you fly,” Megatron said, shifting the seeker so that he was nestled against Megatron’s chassis and his neck would not strain.  “I remember being amazed when I first saw a seeker in the air.  I had been underground for so long in the mines, I had forgotten what it was like to see mechs enjoy life like a seeker enjoys the sky.

“I took that away from you during this voyage.  I was wrong to do so,” Megatron said. 

Megatron stopped talking because he wanted to say the next part when he knew Starscream could hear him.

It was then that the Constructicons managed to break through the rubble and debris that had blocked the engine room.  Megatron stood, suddenly feeling the pain from the fight and his damage from the explosion catching up to him.  He winced but held the limp frame of the seeker close.

Hook was through first, and his gaze fell first on the dead alien, rising slowly to Megatron and the silent frame of Starscream.  He quickly looked over his leader, ascertaining if there was any life-threatening damage.  But the look he was being given told him to turn his attention to Starscream. 

Megatron noticed the frown as Hook unspooled a medical cable and plugged into Starscream’s medical port on his wrist.  The Constructicon’s brows raised in alarm and he urgently called for Scrapper and Scavenger to come over and carefully bring Starscream into the medbay.

Megatron heard them asking for Starscream’s frame, but he found himself temporarily unable to let go.  He had to mentally force himself to release him, throwing every override at his arms to gently lay his seeker in the arms of his soldiers.  Even then, he followed them like a menacing shadow to the medbay, even as Hook asked him questions about his own health.

Lord Megatron: I have been informed Starscream is on the way to the medbay,” Soundwave said, a gentle reminder that he still had duties to perform to get them out of this mess.

“Affirmative,” he replied.  “What is our status?”

“Explosions caused catastrophic damage to our systems at key points that led to our current situation.  Prevailing theory is damage was caused by bombs set by Europan shape-shifter after they snuck aboard using submersible ship and cut into our hull.  This is also why the engines were not working correctly; it is possible they were observing us and our capabilities for self-repair.

“Damage that has been fixed: Hull breach on Deck 3 patched, bilge pumps functional, battery connections replaced, bow planes reconnected, engine room access restored.  Priority items to be fixed: Engine power restored and communications array.”

“Do we know if that was the only Europan onboard?” Megatron asked, staring quietly at the backs of the Constructicons holding his seeker.

“Probable: But not ruled out,” Soundwave said.  “Measures are being put in place to prevent another deception.  Screenings and groups of 3 at all times. There is additional information the Europan told Starscream that I heard before his comm went out.”

Soundwave informed him of the conversation he had overheard, of the Europans luring them down here on purpose to devour them, and why they had targeted Starscream.  Megatron believed most of the blanks had been filled in.

Megatron frowned.  “Suggested course of action after fully operational?” he asked, his optics burning.

Decepticons: Punish and destroy.

 

Chapter Text

Optimus sat in the captain’s chair with his faceplate buried in his servos.  He didn’t remember the last time he had recharged, and it was likely going to be a long time before he could again. 

Everything in their submarine was wet.  The datapads were wet.  The chairs were wet.  The lights that flickered on and off a little too often were dripping in moisture, threatening to short out and plunge the entire room into the icy, fear-inducing darkness they had been living with since the Europans had snuck aboard.

It was clear they had been looking for information, but only in retrospect.  Too many pointed questions, inquiries, strange comments that could have been chalked up to the stress of the mission had they been isolated events.  Put together, the strangeness was centered around navigation and their abilities to chart through the water.

The truth was they didn’t have to do much navigating.  They were just following the Decepticons.

There had only been one at first, or so he had believed.  It’s possible there had always been two, but he didn’t know for sure.  One of them had taken the form of Prowl and the other had morphed into Bumblebee and together they had managed to disable most of their boat’s systems within a few day-cycles.  Communications, weapons, propulsion, batteries, and then the bilge pumps.

The unexplained leaks had started shortly after.

They would manage to get one system working again, and then another would break.  When they had finally managed to figure out that Prowl and Bumblebee were not what they seemed, they had chased the mechs, but they had escaped with sadistic laughter and a hull breach left in their wake.

It seemed the Autobots didn’t have the information the Europans required.

Repairs had been slow, but they were now functional again and had managed to reacquire the Decepticon submarine in their sensors. 

At present, Prowl and Bumblebee were still in the medbay, comatose.  They had been found stuffed in a bulkhead; wounded, but alive.  Sideswipe, Hound, and Bluestreak had also been attacked and were damaged, but were on the mend.

Optimus sighed and pulled his servos off his faceplate.  Ironhide and Jazz sat at their stations in the command center, both wearing looks as grim as he did, staring straight ahead at nothing.  Luckily, he didn’t need to hide it from these mechs; no, these two had seen him at his worst and at his best, and for some reason still believed in him. 

Still.  He wasn’t sure he could get his mechs out of this.

Jazz fidgeted when an indicator popped up on his screen.  He groaned audibly and leaned over to give Optimus a look through his visor.  “It’s Megatron,” he said tiredly. 

Optimus Prime arranged himself in the chair and nodded as their cracked display flickered to life with the visage of the Decepticon warlord.

Surprisingly, he also looked pretty bad.

“Prime,” Megatron said simply, his optics distant. 

Optimus paused a moment longer.  “Megatron?”

“Just checking to see if you’re still alive back there,” the gunformer replied with a tired smirk.  “You’ve been so quiet.”

Optimus stared at the red optics on the screen, hoping to divine the true reason for the call.  “You were sinking a little too fast and uncontrolled for our comfort,” Optimus replied, adjusting in his seat.  “We decided to wait and see what happened.”  The bravado was forced, but this is how it always was.  While this calm trading of barbs was not a normal tone for their interactions, it had been known to happen from time to time.  It was just rare.

Megatron’s smirk intensified.  “I called you to inform you that we have found the Europan civilization.” The smile faded slowly.  “I wondered what it would take for you to not follow us there.”

Optimus’s optics narrowed at the display.  “What are you asking?”

Megatron looked away from Optimus’s gaze on the display for a moment.  “I am asking you not to follow us into the Europan civilization, because I know you will try and stop us.”

“What do you intend to do-”

“You know what I intend to do.”

Optimus slumped back in his chair a little.  He could feel the furtive glance from Jazz and maybe even from Ironhide who would support him in any decision he made, but clearly had one particular course of action on their minds.  One they couldn’t actually ask him to do.

Megatron continued.  “Did you manage to talk to one of them?” he asked, conversationally.  Optimus frowned under his faceplate, as apparently Megatron had surmised what had happened on their ship.  Possibly because something similar had happened to them?  “Did you know this was all an elaborate plan to trap us here?” Megatron added.

This… was new information.  “What do you mean?”

Megatron arched an optic-ridge.  The gunformer looked to his side and nodded.

Jazz received a ping of information.  A recording.

“I’ll allow you to hear it straight from them,” he said.  “Though the creature took the form of Breakdown.”

Optimus looked to Jazz and nodded, telling him to play the recording. 

“We called to your kind to bring you down here to devour you.  We have heard your chatter on Earth for some time now and are interested in you creatures of Primus.”

Optimus knit his brow in confusion.  How… did the Europans know of Primus?  The Europans would likely not have heard about the concept of Primus over mere radio chatter.

“You were supposed to be trapped between the layers of 'debris,'” the not-voice of Breakdown said, his vocalizer echoing of something else, something… dark.  “But then you got clever, didn’t you?  You started to blow up the 'debris.'  You dared destroy our net.”

Right as the recording ended, the Autobots heard the noise of someone being beaten and keening in pain and fear.  Even though Megatron was watching their reactions, Optimus snuck a quick glance to Jazz and Ironhide, who were listening intently and watching him with the same kind of horrified intensity. 

If the recording was true, then Megatron had been goaded into a death trap with most of his army.  And Optimus was just as much of a fool for following.

“I can’t just… allow you to commit genocide,” Optimus said.  “I have to believe there is some kind of peaceful solution here-”

“There is nothing that can convince me not to decimate them,” Megatron said lowly.  “They didn’t merely want to damage my mechs, they wanted to break them.”  Megatron lifted his chin in defiance.  “This is merely justice,” he hissed through the display.

Optimus gripped the sides of his chair.  “This is vengeance.  I don’t doubt you believe your motivations are just, but we also didn’t have to come down here in the first place, Megatron.”  The words “This is your own fault” clawed in the Prime’s throat, but he chose not to voice them.  “I cannot allow you to do this and we will stop you.”

“Do what you think is best, Prime,” Megatron sneered.  “As will I.” 

The line cut, and Optimus was left with the burning after-image of Megatron’s face on the display.  It hadn’t looked… normal to the Prime.  Megatron was always frustrated anger, rage, and hate.  He didn’t look any less dangerous, he just looked…

Preoccupied.

Optimus moved his optics to his subordinates.  They both had looks on their faceplates that didn’t require explanation, but he would have them say it out loud.  “Thoughts?”

Ironhide sighed.  “Prime, if the ‘Cons or the Europans decide to tango with us in the water, we won’t be leadin,’” he said.  “We might have one torpedo we can fire off, but it would have to be too close for comfort.  The guidance computer is shot to Pit, and I ain’t got nothing but two sets of countermeasures to deal with their weapons if they decide to get flirty.”

Optimus pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to stave off another helmache.  “Jazz?”

“If we managed to avoid a watery death, then we wouldn’t be in great shape against the Decepticons and the Europans together on land either,” Jazz said, folding his arms.  “With Prowler incapacitated, I can’t give you percentages of failure, but it’s going to be rough Prime.  We’re down five mechs, no one has recharged right since the Europans left, and it seems the ‘Cons might be… more motivated than we are.”

Optimus gave a dark look to Jazz.  “How much of a head start to the Decepticons have?”

“Couple of hours, tops.  But I’m not about to suggest we strain our systems to catch up either,” Jazz said carefully.  “All of our systems are in a fragile state even before we start ‘doing the tango.’”

Optimus looked between his two officers.  “You would have me turn us around,” he said with some bitterness.

“I would have us survive, Prime.  That’s what I’m suggestin,’” Ironhide said with a frown.

Optimus nodded.  “I will need to think on our next course of action,” he said tiredly.  “Ironhide, you have the bridge,” he said standing to his pedes and walking out.

Ironhide and Jazz shared a look as the Prime walked out.


Hook frowned as another four mechs arrived with some injuries that could not be ignored.  Long Haul was helping with triage and making sure the factional pennant for embellishing was not allowing certain mechs to jump in priority to being seen.

Mixmaster was busy synthesizing more nanite patches and honestly nanites in general.  Most of the injuries coming in would be fine with self-repair, but if they could speed it along before the approaching onslaught then they had to do it.  Scrapper was helping with the minor injuries and Hook took the ones that required more attention.

Megatron arrived, right about on schedule.  Hook was the only one who had noticed but pretended he had not.

In other, more normal circumstances, ignoring Megatron could get you in some serious pain.  Megatron wasn’t above corporeal punishment for any of his soldiers and was happy to mete it out himself.  But this time, Hook allowed himself to focus on his task and finish it before moving on ease the warlord’s guilt.

Because… that is what this was, right?  The great former gladiator was feeling guilty about the pain and suffering inflicted on his second-in-command and needed assurances that he hadn’t permanently disabled the seeker with his opportunistic idiocy.  Granted, he wasn’t the only thing that had led to Starscream’s current state, but he did take up a fair bit of the percentage. 

Hook tried to tell himself that he didn’t really care what Megatron did to Starscream.  None of them really did.  It was always a wink and nudge and a “Better him than me!” and they’d all have a good laugh.  But Hook found himself lately wondering more and more on this frigid little dip into the waters of this Jovian moon if he could have stopped this before it had gone so far.  And maybe he should have.

“Why did we decide I was going to be the medic?” Hook muttered as he reconnected some energon lines in Rumble’s leg.  No one else had the patience or the deftness to fix the mini-cassette.  And certainly no one else was competent enough to risk Soundwave’s ire.

“Hmm,” Scrapper said with a good-natured smile as he welded a patch to Wildrider’s arm.  “Probably because you and the last medic had a thing.  What was her name?”

Hook frowned as he started to close up Rumble’s leg plating.

“Arrythmia, I believe,” Mixmaster called from the other side of the room.

“That’s right.  Arrythmia,” Scrapper said giving Wildrider a pat on the back, indicating he was done.  “Grab some nanites gels from Mixmaster on your way out.”

The Stunticon hesitated.  “Anything you can tell me about Breakdown?  Motormaster will want to know.”

Scrapper looked to Hook, who was now working on the tiny components in Rumble’s pede.  “He’s stable but comatose,” Hook said, his glossa poking out of his mouth in concentration.  “It looked like he was forced into some kind of stasis when he was stuffed in the bulkhead and had been so for a couple of days.  I think he’s going to be fine,” Hook said sighing when he missed two connectors and Rumble gasped with pain.  The cassette bit his glossa though and said nothing.  Hook gave an apologetic look and tried again.

Wildrider gave a nod of thanks to Scrapper and left to get his nanites prescription.

“But she didn’t tell me anything about being a medic,” Hook said, picking up the conversation again.  “I’m an engineer, not a doctor,” he said, as he was finally able to make the connection in Rumble’s pede.  The cassette gave a long-held sigh of relief and relaxed in his little make-shift berth.

“None of us are doctors, Hook,” Scrapper said moving down the line to Astrotrain who had managed to get stuck in his quarters for most of the events of the past few days.

“Not something I want to hear before you fix me, Scrap,” Astrotrain said irritably.  Many had wondered if the triple-changer would be like the seekers in his fear of small spaces, but if he was, he was much calmer about it.  Probably had to do with the train-alt of his.

“You’ll be fine, you just bumped your helm on a low pipe,” he said shushing him.  “But even an engineer can fix an engine once in a while, eh Hook?”

“Broken chronometer is right twice a day and all that,” Hook muttered. 

Scrapper laughed.  “Being a Decepticon medic was never about knowing anything, Hook, it’s just about the spark you have to keep fixing something that’s wrong,” he said with a laugh.

Many of the conscious inhabitants of the medbay chuckled at the words.  “No wonder you all are constantly fixing someone then, huh?” Astrotrain said, earning actual laughter from the assembled injured mechs.

Hook leaned down to talk into the cassette’s audial since it was so loud.  “Rumble you are going to need to stay here for observation for a little bit.  Can you tell Soundwave for me?  You’ll be recovered by tomorrow.”  Rumble nodded and relaxed, smiling at the laughter of the rest of the crew.

Hook finally turned to Megatron who had clearly not been listening to the conversation his army had been having.  He was staring off into the middle-distance, his mouth in a hard line.  “Sir, if you’ll follow me,” Hook said to the gunformer. 

Megatron followed him into the operating room where Starscream lay in relative peace and quiet.

The seeker was recharging in stasis and had been for the past day-cycle.  Hook had managed to repair his vocalizer and audios, as well as his other physical injuries, but wasn’t even sure where to start with his processor.  It was decided that they would try and wake him up at a certain time to assess the damage and observe what glitches were present and what needed to be done. 

Hook typed away at the console and slowly brought Starscream out of stasis.

The seeker’s optics opened slowly but they were listless and dim.  Hook waited until the seeker slowly slid his optics to the medic.  “Good morning, Commander.  Most of your external injuries have been repaired and your vocalizer should be back to operating to normal, or what is normal for your screechy rasp of a voice,” Hook said with a smirk.  “Care to test it out for me?”

“Aft,” Starscream said quietly with a small smile, closing his optics again.

“Good, it seems your personality is still there too.  Are you experiencing any pain?”

“Not… much.  Just aches and exhaustion,” he said.  He opened his optics again and seemed to finally notice Megatron on the other side of the berth.  Hook watched carefully as the seeker slowly softened.  Megatron seemed similarly affected.

Hook suddenly felt like an interloper in his own operating room.  He wasn’t sure what exactly had happened, but the tone had completely changed between them.  Hook cleared his vocalizer.  “Starscream, I will need to run some diagnostics on your processor to see what the damage is-”

“Can it wait?” Starscream asked, quietly, not taking his optics off Megatron.

Hook sighed.  These two were the worst patients he’d ever had.

“I’ll just be… out here,” he said slowly walking out shaking his helm.

Chapter Text

As soon as the door clicked closed behind Hook, Megatron closed the distance between himself and the berth.  Starscream rose to sit up and looked up at the warlord’s optics, which looked concerned, hesitant, and even… vulnerable.

Megatron pushed his lips against Starscream’s, perhaps rougher than he’d intended.  Starscream made a noise of approval and placed his servos on Megatron’s abdominal plating, seeking to explore the warlord in a way he was never permitted before.  They lost themselves for a moment in the relief that they were both alive, and that the kiss they had shared earlier was not something they had imagined.

Then Megatron then pulled back with dimmed optics and whirring fans.

Megatron’s halting servo came up to brush Starscream’s cheek and the seeker leaned into it, dimming his optics a little.  They stared at each other for a few moments, as the territory was new and untested.  A threshold had been crossed, and they knew now that there was no going back.

“I need you to understand something,” the gunformer said.  “I have desired you from the moment I met you,” he said, holding his digit to the seeker’s lips when he attempted to say something in reply.  “But you frustrated me,” he said.  “In the arena, when I was frustrated, I beat things.  In the mines, when I was frustrated, I hit the rocks harder.  When you embarrassed me with your biting intellect, superior attitude, and scathing insight, I hit you,” Megatron said. 

“I thought I had lost all chance of you,” the gunformer admitted, moving his thumb to brush across the seeker’s lips.  “I should have lost all chance.  I know that.”

Starscream’s mouthplate developed into a wry smile.  It was the same smile that Starscream gave when he knew he was right and Megatron had refused to admit it.

“What?” the warlord asked with minor annoyance. 

Starscream gave the warlord a knowing look.  “I knew you were just terrible at communicating, you aft.”

Megatron’s optics narrowed slightly at the tease.  The seeker looking up at him was relaxed, calm, and even smug.  Megatron shook his helm in confusion.

“I have kept you out of stasis for the past decacycle, delighting in your suffering because it made you need me,” Megatron said, his vocalizer hoarse.  “I had finally found a way to be close to you, but I almost lost you as a result,” he said.  Megatron’s other servo came up and held the other side of Starscream’s helm. 

“Yet now is the time you finally return my affections.  I don’t understand, Starscream.”  The warlord was towering over him, holding his helm in his servos in a way that felt both demanding and reverent.  Starscream felt his spark skip a beat.

But then he repeated the words Megatron had just said in his mind.

Starscream’s smile began to fade.  “Your… affections,” he said quietly.  “To be clear, what affections are you talking about?”

Megatron hesitated.  “I indulge you far more than anyone else in the army.  I allow you to operate in autonomy even if it means you would undermine and attempt to usurp me.  I keep you as my second-in-command-”

Starscream snorted. 

Megatron’s servos twitched with the familiar bite of fury when Starscream interrupted him.  The seeker of course had felt it, and his optics were dancing merrily at the conflict in Megatron’s processor.  The warlord exvented in a huff as he allowed his servos to drop from holding the seeker’s helm.  “Even when I was blatant with you, told you I was flirting, you were angry with me.”

“You also forced me to seek comfort from you as you have already mentioned,” Starscream rejoined, his trademark smirk back.  “I was allowed to be angry with you, and I am still allowed,” he said, delighting a little in the odd look of regret on the warlord’s faceplate.  Starscream then looked more thoughtful.  “But.  In that particular case, I thought that you knew of my… interest in you and were mocking me for it.”

Megatron appeared to process this formation slowly, his optics gliding over the plating of the seeker staring up at him.  “How could you possibly be interested in me?”

Starscream sighed.  “We’ve previously discussed my desires.  You have what I want.  Why shouldn’t I find it attractive?”

“Do you hold yourself in such little regard-”

Starscream rolled his optics, reached up to Megatron’s collar plating and pulled down gently.  Starscream still did not have his strength back, but Megatron allowed himself to be pulled down.  The seeker held his collar there, bringing Megatron’s faceplate close to his own.  “Why are you questioning me?  You said you wanted me, and I’m saying you can have me.  This does not have to be a philosophical argument.”

Megatron exvented.  “Then perhaps your processor is more damaged then we thought-”

Starscream snarled and pulled the warlord into another kiss, this time not withholding the fanged denta and bruising force he was capable of.  Megatron was lost for only a moment more before remembering how his lips and servos worked, and he enveloped the seeker’s mouth with his own. 

Starscream felt heady in the kiss as reached up to put his servos along the lines of Megatron’s jaw, pulling him closer. He smelled of salt and smoke.  Megatron was similarly tracing the transformation seams on Starscream’s chest, causing the seeker to shiver at the touch.  Starscream ran his glossa over Megatron’s lip before biting gently and pulling away.

The seeker stared at his Lord that was so lost and so unsure.  So unlike himself.  Starscream delighted in seeing him off-balance like this.  But he decided to try and help him understand more.

“I remembered what it was like for us to listen to each other,” the seeker said quietly.  “To be synchronized in our plans.  To be of the same mind.  I miss that.  I can’t promise you I will be completely subservient to you, but I will grant you respect that you deserve.  That I’ve been withholding.”

Megatron nuzzled his nose against Starscream’s cheek.  “I think I might actually believe you this time,” he said lowly, his mouth turning into a smile.  “And I will keep believing you and listening to you.”

Starscream ran his thumb against Megatron’s cheek, but then felt exhausted.  He lay back down in the berth as the warlord watched him carefully.  “How is your processor?” Megatron asked.  Then a beat.  “We should have let Hook evaluate you first.”

Starscream laughed.  “Probably.”  He ran some initial diagnostic tests, and the results were... maybe a little alarming.  His face must have betrayed his unease because Megatron also was looking at him with concern.

He did a sweep over all of his systems and then his spark almost stopped in his chest.

He couldn’t feel his wings.  His navigational array was completely offline.  His flight systems and sensors were not responding.

His claustrophobia was gone, but he would not be able to fly. 

Panic was lancing across his back where his wings should be.  He craned his neck to his side and actually hoped that they were not there but there they were.  Immobile.  Lifeless.  He could not reach them.

Starscream gave Megatron an anguished look and felt fluid well in his optics.  Megatron put a servo on the seeker’s arm.  “What’s wrong?”

Starscream was stifling a sob.  “I can’t feel my wings...” he said quietly. 

Megatron reluctantly removed his servo and stormed out of the operating room, as Starscream collapsed in on himself, silently crying.


Hook looked over the readouts from Starscream systems on a datapad, biting his thumb digit.  Scrapper too was helping sort through the mess of Starscream’s processor, but it had quickly dawned on them that this was beyond their ability.

The only one on the planet that could potentially help was Ratchet.

Hook had always had a begrudging respect for the Autobot medic.  It was with some small pangs of jealousy that Hook thought the medic likely had every piece of equipment he had ever asked for, plenty of medical supplies, and training that gave him confidence and poise in his medical bay as he fixed the Autobots from whatever happened to them.  But still, the Autobots took more from the Decepticons than gave back, so Hook didn’t always have a problem with this dichotomy.

Megatron was hovering, but it seemed his primary function right now was trying to comfort the seeker.  Again, Hook had seen some strange things in his time as the Decepticon “medic” but this… thing between them was a whole new level of odd.  And even odder was that Starscream wanted the warlord there.

Well, Hook had always suspected this was a thing, so maybe he shouldn’t be surprised.  But then… what about Soundwave?

These officers and their panels.  Primus.

Hook looked up and met Starscream’s listless optics.  “We can’t fix this,” he said finally.  There was a palpable silence in the room that followed this admission.  “While I’m intimately aware of seeker systems and repairing flight systems, this is a processor issue and I’m afraid I’ll do more harm than good.”

“Suggestions,” Megatron demanded.

Hook nodded.  “Option one, forced stasis until we can get to Shockwave who is more aware of processor connections than I, though I can’t guarantee the problems won’t compound while Starscream is unconscious.  Option two, I make a best guess based on the sleeping seekers we have, but the potential for long-term damage is high.  Option three… we get help.”

“Help?” Starscream repeated, showing the first sign of animation since Hook had come back into the room.

Hook locked optics with Megatron.  “The Autobot medic would know how to fix this.”

Starscream groaned laying his helm back, his servos coming to his faceplate.  “I’m not letting him in my processor,” the seeker said irritably.

Megatron was staring at Hook, contemplating his words.  “What is our timeline?”

Scrapper took some of the attention off of Hook.  “Starscream will rapidly decline in processing power since so much of his neural network is tied to his flight systems.  I don’t think we have more than a decacycle.”

Starscream grimaced and just crumpled in on himself.

Megatron looked to the second-in-command with a frown.  They shared a look and Megatron softened in his gaze which only made the seeker sink lower.

“Thank you Hook, I will take this under advisement,” he finally said.  Hook and Scrapper nodded and left quietly.

Chapter Text

“Megatron, I’m not interested in having this discussion again,” Optimus said, trying to keep the irritation out of his vocalizer. 

Megatron’s faceplate filled the screen once more and no longer looked distracted, which was more the pity.  If he was distracted, they might be able to figure out a way around this, but now his optics were clear.

But… did he look… mournful?

“I’ve come with a different proposal in mind, Prime.”  His voice was calm and calculated, as if he didn’t want to frighten the Autobots off.  “It appears one of our crew was far more injured during the attack with the Europan native than we had originally thought.  Hook informs me that fixing him is beyond his ability.”

“I’m… sorry to hear that,” Optimus said, thinking this conversation was taking a turn for the downright strange. 

“If your medic fixes him, then we will allow you to take point with the Europans.  We will turn around and leave.”

Optimus squinted his optics, as if that would illuminate the trap that Megatron was laying down.  “Who is the soldier?”

Megatron hesitated, only slightly, but Optimus had seen it.  “Starscream.”

“Couldn’t have happened to a better mech,” Ironhide spat.

Ironhide,” Optimus chided.  “Please.” 

But there was something wrong here.  Several things wrong, actually.  Optimus knew he wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but he was pretty sure Megatron and Starscream hated each other.  Or, at the very least, Megatron wouldn’t throw away an entire mission just because Starscream was wounded.

Which was another question.

“You brought Starscream down here?  A seeker?”

Megatron sighed tiredly and ignored the question.  “Do we have an agreement?”

Optimus leaned back in his seat.  He was getting what he wanted but there were still some pieces of this puzzle he was missing, and he was worried.

“I want Ratchet to discuss the matter with Hook.  I will leave the decision up to him.”

Megatron merely said “Acceptable,” and closed the line.


Ratchet saw the scan and his jaw dropped.

“What the frag, Hook.”

The Constructicon sighed.  “It’s not like I did it.”

“You know seekers better than anyone!  Primus knows you’ve been working on them for so long, you’re practically an expert.  Why was he brought down here in the first place?”

Hook frowned.  “I’m not going to comment on a military decision.”

“Okay then,” Ratchet said, angrily.  “Why was he woken up?  The only intelligent thing would be to keep him under sedation for the trip.”

Hook rolled his optics.  “Again, I’m not going to comment on a military-” 

“Hook.  I don’t even understand how he’s able to form a coherent thought with the state of his processor.  I just need to understand how this happened.”

Hook sighed.  Ratchet was cutting to the quick of things and while Hook didn’t blame him, it was also annoying.  “His processor is what got us through the debris up above.  And then… Megatron kept him awake in case there was more.  Things were… manageable until the Europan figured out it was Starscream who was helping us get through their traps.”  Hook swallowed.  “He targeted and attacked Starscream, and that led us to the situation we are in now.”

Ratchet was quiet and Hook didn’t blame him.  Hook never pretended that he had taken any kind of “do no harm” oath, and he didn’t even want to be the medic.  But he knew it was fragged up.

The Decepticons were often very fragged up.

“Will you help him?”

I don’t want his help!”

Hook smacked a servo over his faceplate, as Ratchet knit his brow in confusion.

“Was that… Starscream?”

YOU HEARD ME! TELL HIM TO FRAG OFF, I DON’T WANT HIM IN MY PROCESSOR!”

Hook angrily yelled over his shoulder.  “Damn it, you stupid seeker, you aren’t supposed to be walking, get the frag back in the berth!”  Hook snapped for Scavenger who walked over and bodily picked up Starscream around the waist and carried him back into the operating room.  Starscream shrieked, which made everyone flinch.

“It seems he doesn’t want my help,” Ratchet drawled.

Hook looked up at the ceiling.  He needed high-grade.

“He’ll come around by the time he gets to you,” Hook said.  “He’s going to die if he doesn’t get access to his wings.”

Ratchet frowned at that.  “Well, this conversation was to establish if things were as bad as we were led to believe and if it was possible for me to offer assistance.  I believe both are true,” Ratchet said quirking an optic-ridge.  “But he better be a consenting mech by the time he gets here, or all bets are off.”

Hook nodded eagerly.  “Thank you for your cooperation!” he said ending the call before the Autobot medic could change his mind.  He commed Megatron with the good news, but then told him they had to get Starscream to come around.

Hook offered to give anyone still in the medbay audial dampeners if they wanted them from the argument that was about to ensue.


Starscream sat on the berth with a ferocious look on his faceplate.  He was ready for Megatron to come in through the door and argue with him.  He had a bunch of points ready, and plenty of low-blow guilt-inducing comments that would bring Megatron to his knees and make him find another solution.

An Autobot? In his processor?

No way in the PIT that was going to happen.

He tried to flare his wings to demonstrate how angry he was, but they still didn’t move.  He winced at the burning sensation he had down his back from the effort.

He heard the door click open and he looked up, ready to start yelling.  He took and invent-

And Soundwave’s red visor greeted him.  Starscream felt the air leave his vents. 

They had not seen each other since Soundwave had throttled him against the console on the bridge.  It felt like ages ago.

Soundwave closed the door to the operating room behind him, sealing the room off.

“I can’t… be convinced,” Starscream said, slowly.  He wanted to keep his anger and keep the conversation in the comfortable sphere where he would be in control.

Soundwave said nothing, just stood by the door staring at him.

“Why did he send you?” His voice was slightly broken and mournful.  Starscream did not have the energy to sort through the confusing feelings he had right now, and Soundwave standing there and saying nothing made everything worse.

“I volunteered,” Soundwave said quietly.  “And I wanted to see you.”

Starscream closed his optics, sighing heavily.  He opened them and let his shoulders drop in a small form of surrender.  Soundwave slowly walked over to him and stood beside the berth, silent and watching.  Starscream sadly looked at Soundwave’s servo, wanting to reach for it, but keeping himself still.

“How is Rumble?” he said, his voice thick.

“He is fine,” Soundwave replied.  “I… need to apologize-”

“You do not.”

“I do. I need to apologize.  I was… incorrect.”

Starscream watched him closely.  Seeing Soundwave was like a balm to his anger and anxiety.  He had been so ready to fight, but as much as Megatron was fire and intensity, Soundwave was water and calm.

Starscream realized he valued both equally.

“I understand why you said what you did,” Starscream replied.  “I don’t hold it against you.”

Soundwave squeezed his servo in return.  “You need to let the Autobot medic fix you.”

“I don’t want him to,” he said, knowing he sounded like a petulant sparking.  Starscream knew this was coming, but all of his brilliant arguments were lost the moment Soundwave had appeared in the doorway.  Megatron he could argue with.  Soundwave… he found he could not. 

“I know,” Soundwave replied softly.  He brought he other servo to cup Starscream’s cheek.  “But you are being irrational.  The alternative is you will die.”

Starscream sighed, throwing his helm back to look at the ceiling.

“Why are you so afraid of them?” Soundwave said, being far too clever for his own good.

Starscream glared at him before relaxing his gaze.  “I’m not afraid of them, Soundwave.  I just don’t want them to tell me I can’t be fixed.”

Soundwave ran his thumb over the top of Starscream’s cheek.  “Ratchet said he could.”

“That’s before he gets in there,” Starscream said.  “They are going to see what happened, going to see how I’m changed now-”

“What?”

“-and then they are going to say I’m permanently broken and unfixable.  It’s how things are going for me right now.”  His helm hurt and he was so tired of everything. 

Soundwave moved closer and put his forehead to Starscream’s.  It was similar to the gesture they had done before, back before they had started down… whatever this was.

“You have to try,” Soundwave said quietly.

Starscream cast his optics down.  “I kissed Megatron,” he said quietly, finally voicing the thing that was actually bothering him.

Soundwave pulled back and Starscream regretted saying it the way he did.  “I see.”

“No, no, you don’t see anything!  Stop!  Stop it.”  His voice got quieter as he reached for Soundwave’s servo.  Soundwave allowed Starscream to pick it up and hold it, offering a light squeeze back.

Soundwave  just tilted his helm.  “Did he kiss you back?”

Starscream reset his optics.  “…yes?”

“Good.  I know it is something you have wanted.” His visored optics looked… fond.

“You… knew?”

Soundwave made an amused sound.  “I didn’t even need to be in your mind to know this.”

Starscream blanched.  He was genuinely surprised by this reaction.  “I thought… you’d be upset.”  And it wasn’t that he wanted Soundwave to be upset, but this reaction was borderline smug.

Soundwave sat on the side of the berth.  “Not at all.  I will gladly bow out of your way-”

“No!” Starscream said, scrambling to pull the servo closer to himself. “I- wait.  I…”  Starscream didn’t know what to say at this moment, and he didn’t have the communicative power to express what he actually wanted.  Luckily, having a telepath as a lover came with some advantages.  Hopefully.

Soundwave was still.  Either he was surprised, angry, or confused; Starscream couldn’t tell.  He had trouble reading Soundwave’s emotions normally, and now at his diminished processor ability, he couldn’t interpret him at all.

“We will talk after you get back,” Soundwave replied.  He squeezed his servo.

Starscream realized he had been slightly manipulated.  The conversation would happen only after he had allowed himself to be fixed by the medic.  He leaned his helm back against the berth, defeated.  He was clearly unhappy but was also just exhausted.

Soundwave removed his facemask and pressed his lips to Starscream’s forehead.  Starscream snorted.

Chapter Text

Ratchet was tapping his foot at the hatch in command.  This plan was so fragged, and he hated it.  But Optimus knew what he was doing.  Surely.

Jazz waited patiently beside him, looking far too relaxed to suddenly receive the Decepticon seeker onto their broken boat.  But he always looked too relaxed, so Ratchet supposed it didn’t mean much.

Ratchet was really not looking forward to this.

They heard the docking collar of the smaller, Europan craft connect to their door hatch.  Apparently the Europans could have just come in through the “front door,” rather than boring a hold into their ship.  The Decepticons had made short work of rewiring the tiny ship for remote control and had guided the small craft over to the Autobot ship with their precious winged cargo.

There was a lot of concern being placed on Starscream.  Hook hadn’t really elaborated much, but Ratchet could tell something had changed over on the Decepticon side.

There was a banging on the other side of the hatch, and Jazz reached up and turned the wheel to open it.  Ratchet and Ironhide also looked up the ladder.

“Heya, bots!” Rumble’s small grinning face greeted them.  Behind him they could see Starscream’s unhappy expression.

“I-uh, I’m pretty sure we didn’t agree to sparklingsit, Rumble,” Jazz said, stepping back from the ladder.

“Not a sparkling, afthole.  But… not here to cause trouble, R&B, just here as the emotional support cassette to ole ‘Screamer here,” he said brightly, sliding down the ladder into control.  They heard Starscream scoff from inside the craft as he too started to descend the ladder.

Jazz’s visor flashed for a moment.  “Did you just call me R&B?  That’s the stupidest thing-”

“Can we get this over with?” Starscream said, far too sedately.  His tone of voice arrested all of them to silence.

Ratchet finally got a good look at him.  His optics were dull, and his frame looked like it was still in the process of healing from damage.  His colors were muted, and his paint had not been replaced in places.

“You really look like slag.”

Starscream sighed, closing his optics.  Rumble stopped bickering with Jazz and gave the taller Decepticon a worried look.  Rumble took a step back so that he was standing beside Starscream again.  “In… all seriousness, I’m just here to make sure you all keep up your end of the bargain.  And should you be able to fix him… me being here will be a good thing for… him.”

Starscream rolled his optics.  “Fine, yes, let’s go.”

Ratchet picked up on the twinge of anxiety surrounding Starscream.  “Do we need to cuff you?  Will we regret it if we don’t?”

Starscream met his optics, his face blank.  “Only if you can’t fix me,” he said quietly.

Ratchet led the way to the medical bay without further discussion with Jazz and Ironhide escorting behind.

Both Starscream and Rumble wordlessly noticed the damage on the tight corridor’s walls where their Europan saboteur had left his mark.  Starscream in particular seemed to fixate on it.

They reached the medbay and Rachet indicated a spare berth.

“Your boat’s so much smaller,” Rumble drawled.  “More cramped.”

“We didn’t have nearly as much time to build as you did,” Ironhide huffed. 

“Too bad,” Rumble said with a smirk. 

Ratchet began to turn on some monitors when Optimus appeared.  Starscream visibly stiffened but otherwise did not acknowledge Optimus’s presence.

“Apologies that I was not there to greet you,” he said.  “I was checking in with Red Alert about our Sonar array.  Seems like we got it back online.”

“Awesome,” Jazz said.  “Now we can hear them before they kill us.” He was smiling, but his frame was taut.

“They would hide in your baffles,” Starscream offered, quietly.  “Masking their sounds.  You can hear it if you slow down playback and listen closely.”

Jazz tilted his helm.  “Oddly… helpful, there, ‘Screamer.  Thanks for the tip.”

Starscream shrugged.  “Don’t really want them sneaking up on your while I’m still on board.”

Optimus regarded all the mechs in the room.  “I think I can take it from here, Ironhide and Jazz.  Thank you for your assistance.”

The two of them seemed ready to argue but decided against it and then left without another word.

Ratchet quietly began to attach monitoring nodes on Starscream’s frame and temple.  Rumble crawled into the end of the berth and sat pointedly between Starscream and Optimus.

“That was you on the recording we were sent, wasn’t it?”

Starscream’s downcast optics slowly lifted until they met Optimus’s.  “I haven’t heard it, so I’m not sure.” His voice still had that odd timbre to it, something between being calm and on the verge of breaking any second.  “But… probably.”

“Is that why you’re acting like you were lobotomized?” Ratchet asked, trying to get a reaction from him. 

Starscream scowled.  “It’s been a very tiring week, Autobot.  I’m not here to chat,” he said leaning forward.  His scowl erupted into a grimace and Ratchet realized that Starscream had unconsciously tried to access his wings to flare them.  He must be in a lot of pain.

Ratchet nodded, starting up the scanners.  The scans provided him with a lot of the same data that Hook had given him, so at least he had confirmed again that there really was a problem.  It seemed that his processor was in such a state of fragmentation that it could no longer find the inputs from his frame. 

Starscream was watching him with a fiery intensity.  He watched every keystroke and tap as Ratchet began his scans and analysis.  He zoomed in on some scans, and Starscream was leaning from the berth to look around him.

“Would you even know if I was trying to sabotage you?” Ratchet asked.

Starscream blanched and tore his optics from the scan.  “You wouldn’t dare.”  He flicked his optics to Optimus.  “Then you wouldn’t get your precious peace with the Europans.”

Optimus sighed.  “We came into their territory to drag them into our war.  Offering them peace would be the least we could do.”

Starscream scoffed.  “Have you ever heard of an anglerfish, Prime?”  Optimus gave him a blank look, indicating he had not.  “Fascinating little Earth organic.  Things like it exist on other planets in the galaxy, but this one on Earth is particularly relevant.  It hangs a tiny appendage off of the top of its head with bioluminescent symbionts inside it.  It lures prey to it like a beacon in the darkness of the watery depths.

“This peace you want?  It’s attracting you just as conquest attracted Megatron.  Into the gaping maw of the Europans.”

Starscream grimaced, bringing a servo up to his helm.  Ratchet noticed the spike on his readings as he had started to talk.  “Relax, seeker.  Don’t mess it up more before I get in there.”

“Relax?!” Starscream repeated indignantly.  “We are trapped down here with the two most idiotic leaders Cybertron has ever seen, and one of them wants to befriend the things that want to eat us.  Megatron is just as bad!  I told him- I… told him…” His optics began to become unfocused as his speech began to slur.  “Baaddd ideaaa,” he said, sinking into the berth.  He whimpered in pain and fell back.

“Slag,” Ratchet cursed, quickly giving Starscream an IV into his wrist. 

Rumble had turned away from glaring at Optimus and was patting Starscream on the leg.  “Star? Hey Star come on!”  

“Keep talking to him, kid,” Ratchet said, leaning over Starscream with a small flashlight, checking his optics.  They were blown way wide, completely dilated.  He quickly started typing away commands onto the console and connecting to Starscream’s medical ports to connect to the equipment he had.

“Uh, okay Star?  Starscream, you gotta stay up… Commander.  Come on.  Primus, you saved me, Starscream.  You fragging dove into the water and pulled the pipe off of me, and got me out.  Please stay…” Rumble said.

Optimus was carefully watching from a short distance away.  Ratchet didn’t have time to spare him a thought.

He was working as fast as he could, trying to stay ahead of the cascade failure that was happening in Starscream’s processor.  He was becoming unspooled in there, and it was all Ratchet could do to keep him from losing his mind completely.

Finally, things started to slow.  Ratchet had partitioned parts of his processor and that seemed to protect sensitive parts and stop the failures from moving any further.  He went to work on the repair bit by bit, but it was a laborious process.

“Main danger is over now,” Ratchet said to the cassette who looked like he was going to have a moment.  Ratchet really didn’t want to deal with him having a moment.

Rumble sighed.  “Thank Primus.  I don’t think I could face Soundwave.”

Ratchet tilted his helm at that statement but then just shrugged.  “I’ve started the actual fixing part.  It’s going to take a little while,” he said, already tired.

“Not sure what else you think I’m going to do but wait around, Doc.”

Ratchet threw a glance to Optimus who was still observing.  “Just updating you, Rumble.”

Rumble gave him a look then, one of surprise tinged with worry.  Was this genuine concern for the mess of wings laid out on the berth?  Optimus shifted and walked over to stand beside the berth.

“How have things been over on your side?” Optimus asked, his gaze unwavering from Rumble.  “You mentioned being stuck under a pipe?”

Rumble bit his lip.  Ratchet felt a little guilty that Optimus was trying to lightly interrogate him while he was so concerned for Starscream’s welfare.  But he was one of Soundwave’s cassettes, so surely he could handle himself.

Rumble looked to Starscream, as if he could get some support.  “Things were not great,” he started.  “Starscream was so scared out of his processor because of the seeker thing with small spaces, but when both Soundwave and Megatron got hurt, he had to kind of take over.  He really saved all our afts, and then the alien beat him up and put him in a box.”

Rumble wiped a servo over his faceplate, perhaps not meaning to have said as much as he did.  He was tightly wound with nerves just like they were, and it seemed that it was serving to break down the usual factional wall that separated them.  Optimus was well-versed in easing mechs like this.

“Starscream did not deserve that.  He saved us in a way as well.”

“Ha, yeah I heard about that,” Rumble said with a laugh.  “Fragging glitchhead.” He gave a half-hearted punch on Starscream’s pede.  Ratchet opened his mouth to protest, but Optimus gave him a light wave of his servo asking him to not interrupt.  Rumble snorted.  “Guess it was a good thing he helped you out now, huh?”

“It was fortuitous.  Almost as much as Megatron changing his mind about attacking the Europans.”

Rumble paused, not looking at Optimus.  He was staring into nothing as if searching for the best way to respond to this.  Ratchet stifled a sigh, deciding he really should just be paying attention to his work rather than this odd conversation happening at the foot of the berth.

“Yeah… that was… weird.” Rumble carefully retreated back into himself, suddenly wary.  Which Ratchet knew was a tell in and of itself. 

“Do you need energon, Rumble?  We have plenty that we could spare you since you are here.”

Rumble looked increasingly anxious.  Maybe the reality of where he was and the position he was in was finally starting to dawn on him.  “I don’t want to leave Starscream,” he said quietly.

“Then I will bring you a cube.  Then we can chat more,” Optimus said, turning and leaving.

Ratchet spared Rumble a look.  He looked deflated and smaller than he usually was.  Ratchet sighed.  “We promised to fix him,” Ratchet said.  “Don’t feel like you have to talk if you don’t want to.”

Rumble nodded quietly.  “It’s nice to talk.  Which is the problem.”

Ratchet resumed fixing the mess that was Starscream’s processor.