Stupid one-shots keep smacking me in the head when I least expect them. It wouldn't let me go until I got to this point at the very least, and even now I want to keep writing. If I didn't know for a fact that several children will be knocking on my door tomorrow (Tony, David, Hunter, Jennifer and Lucy all came by to visit today while I was tutoring, so I had to kick them out, and they told me they'd be back in the morning) - or is that later today? - I'd finish it right now.

Starscream-centric, capture, angst, mental torture, Autobot indifference, and some Sympathetic!Jazz. Please ignore the possible OOC'ness of the characters (c'mon, it's 2:30am!), and the stilted writing of any scenes involving Prowl and Ironhide.

Anyone willing to overhaul this is more then welcome and appreciated.

Title: Bird in a Cage

Fandom: Transformers

Author: Stormy1x2 (aka queen of the fragmented sentences and unfinished WIPS's)

Pairings: None really, though if you turn your head and blink several times, you might make out a hint of Megs/Screamer, or Starscream/TC and/or Skywarp. Maybe even Starscream/Jazz. All depends on how warped you are. Or how warped I am for putting those kinds of hints in. o.0;

Notes: This is unfinished and un-beta'd, just an idea that popped into my head. I wrote it in about an hour or so, and is nearly complete, but it's 2:30am and I just can't keep my eyes awake to finish it tonight. Meant to be a one-shot, and I'll finish it tomorrow, most likely. There's only a few pages left to go.

The cell was exactly twenty meters long, and eighteen meters wide. It took precisely nine large steps to walk around it, fifteen steps if he walked normally. The walls were made of solid titanium alloy, placed in sheets the same height as the cell, and about five meters in length. There were ten bolts of matching titanium on each side of every sheet. Overhead, there was approximately three meters clearance. The ceiling was also made of titanium, which effectively camouflaged the fact that the cell was situated several hundred feet under a mountain of rock and earth.

The bars, glowing brightly and sparking with a hissing menace, were placed exactly one foot apart from each other, and were about six inches in width, perhaps the same in thickness but his vision was partially obscured due to the fuzzy after-images that kept popping up in his optics if he stared at them head-on for too long.

Beyond his cell, he could see part of what looked like a command room. From his vantage point, he could only see a small portion of what was a large view screen. Several banks of computers were lined against the wall, electronic lights flickering as they processed whatever data was programmed into them. The whole room was lit up with long strips of fluorescent lights.

Every detail he could possibly make out was carefully noted and logged in his memory banks. Not because he thought the information would prove useful to anyone back at Decepticon headquarters, though:

It was to keep Starscream from going absolutely, completely 'round-the-bend, stark-raving crazy.

The Decepticon Air Commander resumed pacing the cell like a caged animal, prowling around his square prison, snarling under his breath. His scientific mind continued to find and record more and more useless details in an attempt to take his mind off the fact he was currently trapped underground.

Underground. Under the ground. A small portion of his mind, not currently obsessed with factual details about Autobot holding cells, was attempting to calculate the strain thousands of tons of dirt and rock would have on titanium, taking into account approximately how long it had been holding up. If the Autobots had built this addition recently – and it stood to reason this was a new addition, since titanium was an earth alloy and did not come from Cybertron – then there was a possibility of a cave-in, but the exact specifics were lost to him, as he did not know precisely how deep underground he was.

He only knew he was deep underground. Very deep. Far away from the wide-open skies.

His pace quickened slightly, and he absently noted that his path was beginning to leave telltale scuffmarks on the floor. Which was also made of titanium sheet metal, each approximately three meters square.

Starscream exhaled, which he realized a heartbeat later was proof that the stress was beginning to take its toll. Transformers lacked lungs, throats and other fleshy bits that humans used to breathe in order to maintain life. The act of pushing air through the pipes in his neck was more symbolic then anything else. It was almost as symbolic as the silence that had overtaken his cell, save for the steady beet of his feet against that damned metal floor, echoing hollowly in his audio receptors.

Oh, he had raged against his capture initially. Ranted and raved and demanded to be set free. At first. Then he had demanded to speak to Prime, or any high official. This had lasted for several hours, as had the constant steady stream of "Do you know who you're dealing with here? I am Starscream!" He was rather proud that he'd managed to drive off several of his jailers with his incessant blathering. That little yellow fool, Bumble, or Bumbler, whatever, had never stood a chance. And the gray one – Bluestreak, Starscream recalled – had been sent to take over.

Starscream realized almost immediately that Bluestreak had been sent because they wanted someone who could out-talk him. Starscream smirked as he recalled the stupid little innocent of a mech paling with each word that came out of his mouth as he detailed some of the more gory Autobot autopsies he'd had the pleasure of taking part in back in the early days of the war when he'd still been chiefly a scientist.

Starscream had broken Bluestreak in less than four hours.

That had been nearly an entire Cybertronian cycle – over one standard earth day, approximately – ago. No one else had been sent in; apparently, Prime or one of his subordinates came to the conclusion that as long as the cell was kept powered, a constant guard was unnecessary.

Which meant Starscream was left to his own devices, with nothing to distract him from the fact that he was trapped. Under the ground.

He had cursed and shouted and ranted some more, hoping that someone was listening via some kind of radio monitoring system, but after an hour of no one ranting back, it had sunk in that he was being ignored.

He was alone.

Starscream shuddered automatically, and quickened his pace again, striding around the cell, taking less then six steps to circle it, his head whirling dizzily as he moved faster and faster, almost as if he were trying to outrun the very thoughts in his head. Finally he came to a halt, slamming his fist against the wall.

"GODDAM YOU AUTOBOTS TO HELL!" he shrieked in the direction of the view screen and the communications system. He didn't expect an answer, and his sensors registered a deep, throbbing pain in his hand. Looking at the hand he'd buried in the wall, he was surprised to see he'd hit the titanium with enough force to actually fracture two of his fingers. His external sensors were whining in pain at him and he actually let out a cackle of amusement.

"You'll just have to deal with it," he told his fingers patiently.

His mind catalogued the newest detail he'd added to his cell.

Starscream turned completely and rested his other hand along the wall as well, bracing himself against it, letting his head fall forward to rest against the sheet metal with a dull clanging sound. Closing his eyes, he tried to forget that he was under the ground. Tried to forget the enormous weight of the earth and its gravitational forces, and the possibility of metal fatigue. He listened to the faint hum and whir of his internal circuitry and told himself that those sounds belonged to him, and that they were not the sounds of metal straining above him.

"Megatron will come for me," he muttered. "He has to – no one else can take my place. He knows it. I know it. Everyone knows it. He will come."

Having reassured himself, he pushed himself off the wall, and began circling the cell again, pausing now and again to sneak glances to the ceiling above, warily watching for any signs that he was about to be crushed forever. Forever. Under the ground. He shuddered.

And began to quicken his pace.

Jazz watched the monitor silently. It had taken hours, but the Screaming One had finally talked himself out, and was reduced to storming up and down his cell like a caged panther. The cat analogy was a good one, he admitted to himself. The Seeker was all sleek lines and angles, smoothly striding along, head quirked for any sounds, any movements.

"Like an angry cat, ain't he?" Ironhide chuckled. Jazz blinked and looked up to see his replacement in the doorway. " If I have to spend my evening watching the Starscream channel, at least he's providing me with entertainment."

Jazz turned back to see what Ironhide was referring to, and watched as Starscream stopped circling to throw another suspicious glare at the ceiling. "It's not that funny, Ironhide."

"You're just a softy," came the jovial reply. "Now get lost son – bedtime for all good autobots."

Jazz smiled at the other Autobot and nodded. "I have a date with a CD player," he said, rising from his spot in front of the monitor. "Blaster downloaded some pop music from Uzbekistan that he said had a catchy beat, and I'm dying to check it out."

Ironhide shook his head, bemused. Jazz's taste in and love for music was legendary. "Whatever you say."

With a wave, Jazz exited the room and headed down the hall. As he went though, he found himself recalling the tense, almost – dare he say it? – scared look Starscream had let slip every once in a while. If not scared, then stressed. Heavily so.

Well, he's a prisoner, Jazz told himself sternly. This isn't a vacation he's on.

Besides, it was only temporary. Prime was in the process of negotiating Starscream's release for a shipment of energon, and several Cybertronian circuit boards that required the use of the Decepticons spacebridge to obtain.

"Though why anyone would want that loudmouth back is beyond me," he chuckled wryly, recalling some of the more…colorful phrases Starscream had spat at Bluestreak, causing the Autobot to flee.

Resolutely, Jazz put Starscream out of his mind, and entered his own quarters. His optics brightened as he took in the CD lying on his bed, and he eagerly lost himself to the world of music.

"Megatron is coming," Starscream told himself for the hundredth time. "Or maybe he'll send Skywarp – we can't possibly more then two miles – " he almost choked on his words. "- under the ground. Once Megatron and the other Decepticons have the place surrounded and engaged in combat, 'Warp will teleport in here and then I'll be back outside. Back in the sky. And then I'll blast this entire base to smithereens."

He tried to squelch the annoyingly persistent, scientific portion of his mind trying to inform him that Skywarp lacked the necessary schematics of the Autobot underground base in order to teleport in without landing inside a wall.

"Or Soundwave will send Ravage, Frenzy and Rumble in a surprise raid to free me. Yes, I'm sure something like this is already underway. After all, I am Starscream, Air Commander!"

His voice sounded raspy in his own receptors. His voice conduit must be failing, he decided. It certainly wasn't fear making his voice tremble like that.

His energy levels were low. A hard-fought battle, and hours – days? – of walking up and down his cell without shutting down or recharging would do that to a transformer. Nonetheless, he doggedly walked on, trailing his broken hand along the wall, letting the pain and his own rambling try to distract him from the growing ball of cold fear in the core of his body shell that was steadily growing. Ignoring the thought circling the back of his mind that he had been abandoned. Abandoned by everyone, Autobot and Decepticon alike.

"You won't break me," he muttered feverishly. "I am needed. I am irreplaceable. Therefore, someone will come. Skywarp will come. Thundercracker will come. Megatron will come."

Starscream squeezed his optics shut, slowly coming to a stop in the far corner of his cell. Weariness overtook suddenly heavy limbs, and he found himself curling up in the corner, drawing his legs up to his chest plate. He rested his forehead against his knees in a rare display of emotional and physical exhaustion.

In a small voice he didn't recognize, he heard someone plead:

"Please, someone come."

The next morning, Jazz strolled onto the bridge. He spotted Prowl and ambled over, offering him a cheerful, "Good morning!"

Prowl was watching the morning news on one of the monitors, and absently responded to Jazz's greeting. Jazz rapped his arm gently and Prowl blinked. "Yes Jazz?"

"Where's Prime?" Jazz asked. "I want to know what's the end result of attempting a civilized hash-out with Megatron."

Prowl grinned. "Metal-head agreed to the exchange. Prime went with Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, the Dinobots and Perceptor to get the circuit boards."

"Good choice," Jazz mused. "Perceptor knows both where the boards are and which ones we need, the Dinobots are more muscle then anyone needs in case the Decepticons have any funny ideas about attacking Prime, and the twins are the perfect guards for Perceptor while on Cybertron."

"Not to mention our own bit of leverage," Prowl added glancing at the side lift that led to the underground chamber where a certain Decepticon was being held. Jazz nodded.

"What's happening with him?"

"Megatron is letting Perceptor and company through the spacebridge to get the circuit boards. Once we have them, Megatron wants to us to release Starscream. When Starscream clears Autobot territory, Megatron will allow the Dinobots to load the promised energon cubes into Prime and let everyone leave peacefully."

Jazz nodded again. "Sounds good. Did anyone tell Screamer about his upcoming freedom?"

Prowl shrugged. "I told Ironhide as soon as Prime told me. I assume he's informed Starscream."

"Ah."

"By the way, who's supposed to take over the watch this morning?" Prowl asked.

Jazz smiled. "I'm running a bit late. Think he'll kill me?"

Prowl snorted. "Get moving, wise guy."

Ironhide was watching his favorite morning show when Jazz entered the guard room. The burly mech chuckled at the screen, and then raised his optics to meet Jazz's. "You're late."

"And you look like you're suffering so much," Jazz retorted, gesturing towards the screen that had Ironhide's attention. "Should I come back after Live with Regis and Kelly?"

"Naw." Ironhide stood up, flicking the off switch as he did so. "I can watch it in my own room. I wouldn't wanna deprive you of your own fun watching our guest."

Jazz turned towards the monitor that had the feed from their cells. And blinked. "Where is he?"

"Hasn't moved from the corner except to randomly mutter things I can't quite make out," Ironhide said cheerfully. "I think he's losing the few marbles he had to begin with."

"Did you tell him he's going to be released later today?"

Ironhide snorted as he headed out the door. "Why should I? He'll find out soon enough. I'll see ya later Jazz."

Jazz returned the goodbye absently as he continued to study the image in front of him. Starscream was curled up in a ball in the corner, and seemed to be rocking back and forth. A small jolt of concern moved through him.

Yes, Starscream was a Decepticon and therefore their enemy, but Jazz was never one for unnecessary cruelty, and yes, this was cruelty in his mind. He knew it had to be hard for a flier to be trapped in a cage, like the earth birds he saw in human homes and stores all the time. He tried to imagine being in Starscream's situation but without his music, or any contact with anyone else for days, and shuddered at the thought.

He stood up and headed for the door. He didn't like Starscream, but he didn't want to spend the morning watching the Seeker losing his mind. At the very least, he could tell the Seeker that he'd be free in a matter of hours. Then his conscience would be clear.

He entered what Sideswipe had once nicknamed 'The Dungeon" and headed for the cell at the back.