This is a sequel to "Bring Flowers". Read that story if you want to know why Dead End is in such an unusually cheery mood--for him.


Galvatron was not amused by Dead End's unscheduled, unauthorized absence from Charr, not that that was much of a surprise. What had shocked and surprised Astrotrain was that Dead End had actually sought him out on Aldebaran VII and demanded to be returned to Charr.

"Will I take you back to Charr?" Astrotrain had snapped at the errant Stunticon. "I have orders to drag you back to Charr in pieces, if necessary!"

"That won't be necessary," Dead End had told Astrotrain in his pleasant, cultured voice. "I'm quite anxious to return to my place among the Stunticons."

"Heh. That'll depend on how many pieces you're in after Galvatron gets through with you!" The big purple and gray triple-changer smiled unpleasantly.

Dead End shrugged. "Whatever will happen, will happen. Let's go."

Cyclonus, Scourge and the Sweeps were waiting for Dead End when they landed on Charr. "Galvatron requires your presence, Dead End."

Dead End looked around at his escort. "Am I a prisoner?"

"Will you accompany us to Galvatron?" said Cyclonus

"Yes."

"Then you are not a prisoner." Cyclonus said. "I'm pleased that you have the courage to face your fate like a true Decepticon."

Dead End shrugged. "Whatever will happen, will happen."

Galvatron was not nearly so pleased as Cyclonus.

"So," he snarled at Cyclonus, "Astrotrain finally found the deserter!" Galvatron pointed his fusion cannon at Dead End. "Any last words, deserter?"

Dead End's optics glowed deep red. "A few, Mighty Galvatron," he said, his voice impassive. "Astrotrain did not find me; I found Astrotrain. I never deserted the Decepticons; I simply followed Cyclonus' recommendation."

"What?" Galvatron half-lowered his arm-cannon and stared at Cyclonus suspiciously. "What is he talking about?"

"I.. I don't know, Mighty Galvatron" answered Cyclonus.

"Well?" barked Galvatron. "What are you babbling about, Dead End?"

"Mighty Galvatron, Cyclonus told me to find a way to do my duties. I found a way. It required me to take a leave of absence offworld, but I am now ready to return to my duties as a Stunticon."

"Cyclonus! Is this true?" Galvatron snarled.

"I.. did use words to that effect, but I didn't mean--"

"BWAAAAAH!" Galvatron clubbed Cyclonus savagely on the side of the head, knocking him to the ground. "As for you, Dead End, next time, get a LEAVE of absence before you take an absence!" He pointed his cannon at Dead End and fired. The blast caught Dead End in the chest, slamming him hard up against the back wall; the superheated backwash from it blistered his paint, but his forcefield held.. Just barely...

Then it collapsed and everything went black.

# # #

The first thing Dead End was aware of when he came back online was that his chest really slagging hurt. There were also a disturbing number of system alarms cluttering up his memory queue, but--as his memory came back online--that was to be expected after being shot by Galvatron. Dead End was moderately pleased that he'd come back online at all--evidently, Galvatron still needed the Stunticons more than he needed to make an example of him.

Dead End could hear a great deal of noise in the near distance, and a fairly heavy tread next to him. Given his injuries, Dead End had a good idea who that must be and where he was. He activated his optics and was not surprised to see that he was laying in the repair bay with Scrapper pulling a charred circuit board out of his chest.

"Hello, Scrapper. Been a while."

Scrapper looked at him. "Yes, it has, and good thing, too. When you Stunticons land in the repair bay, you're always a mess to put back together."

"It's the forcefields. Takes something really nasty to knock them down... unless someone accidently leaves them unplugged."

Scrapper chuckled. "Trying to torque off your repair tech when he's mucking around in your ventral systems chamber is either very stupid or suicidal. Knowing you, Dead End, I vote for suicidal." He inserted a replacement circuit board into the chest cavity and prodded something next to it. "Hmmm, this wiring harness is fried and has to be replaced, too."

"Good. I wouldn't want you thinking I was stupid." Dead End chuckled softly. "I have a reputation to maintain."

"The Suicidal Stunticon? Bah. I'd rather have to repair you over the Professional Paranoid any day or time. At least you're not acting like you expect me to sneak a few pounds of plastic explosive under your hood or reprogram your CPU or something." Scrapper yanked out a length of charred wiring.

"Check the ventral sensory array, too. I'm getting some rather unpleasant sensations from where you're working. I don't think I should still be feeling the heat blast."

"Be happy you're still feeling anything. Galvatron was ready to blast you to oblivion, you must have said something to change his mind a bit." Scrapper probed around in the sensory array. "Yes, I see it. You've got some crosstalk from the fried insulation on your sensory feed."

A few hours later, Scrapper had all of Dead End's vital systems back online and was just closing him up. "Your own damage control systems will take care of the rest. You should be back to full functionality in a cycle or two. Now scram; I need this space to work in."

Dead End carefully made his way back to his chamber and slowly, carefully collapsed. The aches and twinges that ran through his chassis told him that his internal repair systems were on the job; Scrapper had given him a full recharge so everything could work at full capacity.

"You survived! I'm impressed," said Starscream as he appeared out of the air, a swirl of light and color that resolved itself into the transparent, shimmering form of the dead Decepticon.

"Galvatron wasn't quite as annoyed with me as he was with you," Dead End said as he looked up at the drifting ghost. "So I wasn't imagining things on that starship. You did come back with me."

Starscream shrugged. "You were convenient. I dislike traveling without a body, and I don't have to possess you to ride along with you."

"No embarrassing personality changes to give you away, you mean?" Dead End chuckled.

Starscream smirked and started pacing around the tiny room. "Exactly! Not that most of the dolts around here would notice anything short of me repainting my victim in red and blue and labeling him 'Starscream' in giant block letters. Have I ever mentioned that I like talking to you? You're quick on the uptake. I don't have to explain myself twice."

"What are you doing here, Starscream?" Dead End stretched out, his hands loosely held behind his head. His chassis still twinged with internal repairs-in-progress, and he was annoyed to notice that Scrapper hadn't bothered to properly wax and polish his repainted chest armor.

"I heard that Galvatron shot you, and I was curious to see if you'd survived, or if I was going to have company over here," Starscream said sardonically. He stopped pacing to stare down at Dead End, arms akimbo, fists on his hips.

Whatever Dead End or Starscream was about to say next was forgotten as someone's metal fist tapped on the door. Starscream vanished in a swirl of sparkling light, which quickly faded away.

"Dead End? It's me, Breakdown." The cream and blue Stunticon hesitantly pushed open the door to Dead End's chamber, looking over his shoulder as he did so.

"Hello, Breakdown," Dead End said, with the faintest hint of caution. Breakdown ducked in the door and quickly shut it behind him.

"You're looking better than the last time I saw you." Breakdown shook his head. "You had a hole through you the size of Motormaster's fist! I thought you were dead."

Dead End shifted himself and his aches and pains around a bit. "No such luck. I get to suffer another day or six. And that bum Scrapper didn't even refinish my bodywork!"

"Maybe I can help you with that. Where do you keep your wax and polishing stuff?" Breakdown wandered around the tiny chamber, randomly pulling open wall cabinets.

"That cabinet, down there. No, not that one, the one to the left." Dead End pointed at a cabinet near the floor.

"Found it." Breakdown kept opening cabinets and compartments.

"Breakdown..." Dead End growled warningly.

"Just making sure the room is secure." Breakdown eyed the corners of the ceiling suspiciously. "Soundwave's bugs--"

"--could watch me sleep for the next three cycles. That's probably almost as exciting as watching me sit in a depressive funk for two weeks. Breakdown, you should know by now that no one much cares what either one of us does so long as we show up for battle. We don't rate that high on the list of 'Most Likely to Betray Galvatron'."

"So you say--right after getting a hole blown through you by our mighty leader." Breakdown sounded smug, as if he'd just proved his case.

"I brought that on myself. I knew what I was getting into when I left, I just didn't care. It's done with now." Dead End tried to shrug, and winced at the warning twinge that shot through his chest.

"Turn over.." Breakdown sat down beside Dead End and poured cold liquid wax right on Dead End's new roof piece.

Dead End gasped softly; it felt like liquid ice on his back. Without his forcefields online, and with his sensory arrays recently rewired and recalibrated, his armor was as sensitive as a Seeker's wingtips.

Now why am I thinking of that? he wondered.

Breakdown started spreading the wax across Dead End's back in long, slow, methodical circles. He carefully worked his way over the entire car roof, rubbing every square centimeter of the newly repainted piece. Dead End's motor thrummed softly; the cold wax and Breakdown's methodical stroking sent shivers down his dorsal sensors.

Breakdown shifted his position, trying to reach the far side of Dead End's roof. "Tell me if this is too much weight for you right now," he said as he straddled Dead End's hips.

"Hmm? No, that's... fine," Dead End said, his voice dropping into a deep, sensual purr.

Breakdown smirked, then rubbed wax along the far side of the roof with long, sure strokes. Dead End's motor purred more loudly, and he could feel the harsh vibrations of Breakdown's own engine where Breakdown's hips pressed against his own. Dead End sighed as the hard strokes slowly halted.

Breakdown rolled off of him. "Turn over. Need to let that coat harden before I buff it; might as well get your hood in the meantime."

"Very.. well," Dead End said in that deep, sultry purr. He obediently rolled back over, carefully shifting one of his doors out of the way to do so. Breakdown straddled him again, this time looking Dead End in the face. Breakdown smirked.

Again, Dead End gasped as Breakdown dripped the cold wax on his hood. His engine purred as Breakdown's careful strokes sent shivers all through his ventral sensors. Again he felt the harsh vibrations of Breakdown's engine resonate through him where Breakdown's hips pressed against his.

Breakdown pressed down harder, rubbing the wax into the newly painted hood with long strokes. He switched to faster, shorter strokes at the corners and curves; careful but firm strokes around the sensitive headlights. Dead End's overtuned ventral sensors lashed him with jolts of pressure and tingling sensation with every stroke; soft gasps escaped him with each stroke.

He grabbed Breakdown's arms, not letting go but not stopping Breakdown from continuing to polish his hood. Dead End's fingers tightened and relaxed, twitching in time to Breakdown's strokes. He pressed his hips harder against Breakdown, willing himself to feel the snarling vibrations of Breakdown's engine, letting them flow through him, overriding his own racing engine.

Breakdown's vibrations shook his entire sensory system; Dead End jerked and shuddered as the too-finely calibrated array soared toward overload. Breakdown smirked again, and stopped stroking for a second. Dead End hung on the edge of overload--then Breakdown very delicately and gently wiped Dead End's headlights, cleaning and polishing them with tiny circular strokes, even as he ground his hips against Dead End's.

Too much. Dead End jerked convulsively as the sensory overload hit him and everything flashed white and red and blue and all colors in between--Breakdown dropped down, pinning him to the bed, stopping him from thrashing in the helpless violence of the overload. Limiters finally cut in, and there was momentary blackness as Dead End's abused sensors rebooted.

"Well, you've changed," Breakdown said, looking into Dead End's masked face. "You never let me push you that far before." He looked pleased with himself.

Dead End flicked his attention toward his internal diagnostics--nothing had torn loose--and back to Breakdown. "I always expected to be dead by the next cycle, so there was no point in encouraging you."

"And now?"

"Whatever will happen, will happen." Dead End sounded vaguely amused. "I might live to see tomorrow, so why not?"

Breakdown rolled off of Dead End. "Turn over. I still need to buff that wax job." As Dead End carefully turned himself over again, Breakdown continued, "Just what did you do when you went AWOL? Or was it getting shot by Galvatron that made you so happy?"

"I went to Cybertron."

"Cybertron? What the slag for?" Breakdown straddled Dead End's hips again and picked up a big fluffy buffing pad. He started gently buffing Dead End's wax-covered roof.

"To ask someone a question that only he knew the answer to. I rather liked the answer I got."

The feathery touch of the buffing pad sent a pleasant tingle along Dead End's tactile sensors--then Breakdown stopped buffing him abruptly. "What did you need to know that you had to go to an Autobot?" Breakdown's voice was ugly with suspicion.

"I never said he was an Autobot, and if you don't like my answers to your questions, you shouldn't ask them," Dead End said, his voice still calm and refined, but perhaps with just the edge of a threat.

Breakdown resumed buffing Dead End, but said nothing more for several long, silent minutes. "You're not going to tell me, are you? It's about me, isn't it? You had to ask someone else something about me that you couldn't ask me to my face!" Breakdown rolled off of Dead End for the third time. "Turn over."

Dead End turned back over onto his back; Breakdown straddled him again. Now he could see Breakdown's face; he looked slightly petulant. "No, you didn't even come up in the conversation."

Breakdown made an exasperated noise. "You might as well tell me! No matter what you were doing on Cybertron, I'll imagine something ten times worse." He leaned forward and started buffing Dead End's hood. The pressure of his thighs and hips against Dead End's allowed his dissonant engine vibrations to shiver through Dead End's chassis again.

Dead End reached up with both hands and grabbed Breakdown's arms again, feeding the wild vibrations back into the cream and blue Stunticon.

"Would you believe me if I said I was meeting secretly with Cyclonus to plot the overthrow of Galvatron?" Dead End purred in that deep and sensual voice.

"No, n-not at all," answered Breakdown as he shivered violently, almost dropping the buffing pad. "Tell me something a bit more believable."

Dead End looked at him for a long moment--or rather, past him, and silently thanked whoever made a mask part of his design. His face would have given away too much otherwise. Dead End pulled Breakdown down to him, locking his fingers into Breakdown's wheel hubs, willing him not to turn and look over his shoulder...

I should have known that Starscream didn't leave when he pulled his fade.

Breakdown responded to Dead End's obvious interest, racing his engine, throwing off the weird, dissonant vibrations that, at full power, could knock out drive-trains and steering systems and other motor controls. At this fast idle, they vibrated through Dead End's sensory systems and motor controls, setting everything abuzz. He revved his own engine in response, letting the smooth purr of it seep into Breakdown's gears and joints and sensors.

Breakdown's mouth opened in an inarticulate gasp; he shuddered and arched his back as a jolt of power and pleasure ran down the length of his main power conduit. Dead End slid his hands over Breakdown's shoulders and locked them around his waist, big fingers almost touching across the small of Breakdown's back. He was very, very glad of the concealing mask as he felt the familiar touch of ghostly fingers shivering his brachial power conduits.

Dead End's engine revved, snarling his anger. How dare that ghost intrude on him and Breakdown! The engine howl rose to a crescendo, weaving in and out of Breakdown's dissonance, the cacophony of sound and vibration slamming sensory networks with unmitigated fury. Dead End knew he was very close to rebooting his sensory processors again--

The shadowy red and blue image hovering behind Breakdown vanished; something swept through Breakdown and Dead End--a sharp shock, like a bucket of ice-cold water in the face--then sensation shorting directly from Breakdown to Dead End to Breakdown like a steel bar dropped across a high-voltage bus. Each felt the other's sensory networks overlaid across his own, every shivering vibration redoubled and amplified and fed back--

Whiteness, sound, ecstasy like death agony, on and on and on. Total sensory overload--

Blackout.

When Dead End woke up, he was on the floor, entangled with Breakdown. As he carefully pulled his limbs loose from Breakdown's, the cream and blue Stunticon came to and just blinked at Dead End for a moment with a dopey smile on his face.

"How did you do that?" Breakdown finally asked, still smiling dreamily.

Dead End wasn't quite thinking when he answered, "I think someone shorted our sensory buses together." To be fair, no one was thinking coherently post-overload.

Breakdown regarded Dead End with a look of vague and dreamy suspicion. "What someone?"

Dead End should have known--what happens to the steel bar that shorts a high-voltage bus? It melts. He should have known that Starscream was even less coherent than the two of them. He should have known that Starscream would do something stupid.

The decidedly transparent red and blue Seeker currently in a state of collapse on Dead End's bed rolled over and peered at the two Stunticons on the floor.

"Who do you think?" Starscream said.

It took the rest of the Stunticons three days to coax Breakdown out of the break room maintenance closet.

-- FIN --