A/N: Happy Doctor Who special day to all, and have a final chapter/completed fic on me!
Disclaimer: What I own is fairly pitiful – Nightraider, Dreadnought and Crossfire. Don't steal. What Hasbro and TakaraTomy own is far more substantial – Transformers and all it spin-offs. Jammy gits. But credit them if you borrow!
Warnings: Some implied smut (people seem to like it for some reason), but PG-13 at the worst, and a little setting up for a particular event taking place sometime in mid-2005...
Presents: Part 13
From his seat next to the repair berth, Dreadnought's head whipped up and to the right at the exhausted sound emerging from Nightraider's vocaliser.
"'Raider? 'Raider, you alive?"
The femme jet's optics slowly cracked open with a groan. At the first glimmer of artificial light, they snapped shut again and she curled her fuselage into the foetal position with another, louder groan and a mutter of something that sounded like, "Slag off and let me die".
Dreadnought slapped the comm. unit next to the berth. "Ok, she's online. Sort of."
Shockwave's less-than-dulcet tones drifted through the speaker. "Define 'sort of'."
"Woke up, cursed me, and then went back into recharge."
"Explain to me how this is different than usual."
The battlecruiser rolled his optics. "This is not the time to finally learn how to be a smart-aft. Just get down here!"
On the opposite side of the med-bay, Glit spared the engineer a sympathetic glance while he waited for Astrotrain's scan results. The triple-changer lay peacefully on the berth, his gaze darting between the prone femme and the silver feline perched atop his cockpit.
"I don't get it. She was fine when we left."
Glit cast his optic over the scanner, nodded at the results, and subspaced the machine before he returned his gaze to the shuttle. "Well, you're cleared to leave. But there's nothing you can think of that might have caused this?"
He gestured at the F-14's prone frame with a paw.
Astrotrain shrugged as he swung his legs off the berth and stood up. "She's had the same rations as us, bridged the same time as me, and didn't get wasted at Christmas. Unless Soundwave had a dose of something he should've told the 'Structies about, I got nothing."
Both Glit and Dreadnought looked askance at the prone triple-changer. The battlecruiser was the first to open his mouth. "Why on Cybertron would something Soundwave might have affect—OH!"
Dreadnought's optic band brightened from dull orange to almost white, and a delighted grin spread across his faceplates. Glit's optics widened in astonishment.
That eliminated the pool of reasons down to just a few dregs, all of which came from the results of happy-fun time, as the femme jet herself had once put it.
The feline medic blinked. "You're...certain?"
Striding towards the repair bay doors, the triple-changer treated both mechs to a look of derision. "She plugged him during the party. And a few times afterwards. And at least once this morning. You seriously don't know this?"
Shockwave picked that moment to enter the med-bay, Crossfire tucked under one arm with a pouty expression in his optic. "We 'seriously don't know' what?"
Dreadnought brought his hands together under his chin and made a noise that could only be described as a squee. "'Raider and Soundwave made the beastformer with two backs!"
He glanced quickly at Glit. "No offence."
Astrotrain rolled his optics and decided to make a fast exit.
On the berth, the F-14's fuselage twitched. "Shuddup all of you and let me die."
"And she speaks."
Dreadnought quickly moved down the berth to make room for Shockwave. Glit stood up, stretched, and lightly bounded down from Astrotrain's empty berth and trotted across to the femme jet's berth.
Forget her spark, it felt like her exo-plating was curling up and burning.
Nightraider forced herself to cycle air through her vents before she risked trying to turn her head towards the sound of Dreadnought's voice. Her optics flickered open again and managed to stay open, but the engineer and the medic both spotted immediately that her optic colour was a weak yellow rather than the usual amber.
Dreadnought tentatively slipped his hands under her shoulders and carefully lifted her frame up the berth, muttering soft apologies at every wince or hiss of pain. Glit retrieved his scanner and proceeded to run a full frame and spark analysis. Shockwave loomed over the end of the berth, Crossfire wriggling frantically in his grasp.
"What wrong with 'Raider?"
The Military Operations officer tucked his creation more securely under his arm. "She is unwell, and she will require silence."
Crossfire pushed at his sire's arm, a glower clear in his single optic. "If 'Raider not well, she need hug."
Without missing a beat, the femme jet cycled a tank of air, sat up, yanked Crossfire out of Shockwave's grasp and collapsed back on the berth with the little gun-former curled safely within her arms.
Crossfire snuggled into the femme's embrace with a squeak of delight and tentatively patted her faceplates. "'Raider want hug?"
Nightraider summoned up the energy for a lopsided grin. "'Raider definitely want hug. And some sedatives."
"Can do!" Dreadnought reached behind him and produced a blue-tinted energon cube.
Glit sniffed at the contents and screwed his faceplates into a feline scowl. "Should I even ask what's in there?"
The battlecruiser beamed and passed the cube to the femme jet. "I call it Top-Shelf Oblivion. Mid-grade laced with a dash of every sedative from the top shelf in the medical stores. Not enough to knock you out, but enough to keep you mellow."
Peeling one arm away from Crossfire's frame, Nightraider accepted the cube, took a wary glug and sighed in relief as the agony in her frame started to subside to more tolerable levels. "I love you. I know I don't say it enough, but I do."
"Yeah yeah yeah, I'm a one-mech wonder. Anyway..."
He rubbed his hands together and smirked expectantly at the prone femme. "Details, and don't say it's crotch-plate rot, because it just isn't."
Three sets of optics bored into him in disapproval. Glit was the first to speak, his dental plates gritted together.
"Please note there is a sparkling in the room."
Dreadnought glanced at Crossfire, who was happily poking at Nightraider's energon cube and completely oblivious to the conversation.
"Oh yeah, because he'll never hear those words put together in his life."
He turned his gaze back to Nightraider. "So you and lover-mech did the nasty, we got that. But you look like Fortress Maximus stepped on you, and your pain receptor readings are off the charts around your spark chamber. I will ask you now, did you and Soundwave...?"
He made a gesture around his own spark chamber that left the occupants of the room in no doubt as to what he was suggesting.
The F-14 simply glowered silently back.
"And please note that saying 'no comment' counts as yes."
Nightraider looked away, slugged the remains of her cube back in one gulp, shuddered, tucked Crossfire against her cockpit and swung her legs over the side of the berth. The first touch of her feet against the floor made her hiss in pain, but she managed to ignore the sensation long enough to stand and start a wobbly walk towards the repair bay doors.
The three mechs stared after her, Dreadnought wearing an anticipatory grin, Glit with his head cocked to one side in curiosity and concern, and Shockwave observing her with an almost bored interest.
She pushed the doors open, using more energy than she would have liked, and finally spared a glance back at the trio, an exhausted but satisfied smirk on her faceplates.
"Completely, definitely no comment."
Dreadnought's whoop of delight could be heard three halls away.
Eight weeks after the Decepticon conquest of Cybertron...
Megatron and the senior officers had been quick to capitalise on their Yuletide victory. The Nemesis was now reduced to a skeleton crew of the Seacons and the Battlechargers; the only warriors who would actively enjoy the prolonged assignment on Earth. All supplies bar the standard military energon rations and repair equipment had been removed and sent to Cybertron in the last days of 2003. Most of the ground-troops had been bridged home during January of 2004, with Megatron, Starscream, and Soundwave remaining behind to oversee the evacuation.
Inside the newly reconstructed spacebridge chamber in Iacon, Shockwave shook his blocky cranium, and carefully stepped over the woozy fuselage of Ramjet.
"Was there a particular reason that you believed that bridging all of the flight troops from Earth in one transport was a good idea?"
Ramjet and Thrust lay curled together in a whimpering heap, with Dirge sprawled out unconscious beneath them. Blitzwing was sitting on his aft beside the bridge plate, blinking as if someone had taken a lump hammer to his processor and poured a bottle of acid in the wounds for good measure. The Combaticons had chosen to ride with the aerial troops; Blast-Off and Vortex had managed to survive the trip without going off-line, but they were being supported by Swindle and Brawl as they staggered off the bridge plate. Onslaught was following at a discreet distance, just far enough to avoid getting his armour repainted should either of his brothers decide the waste disposal racks were too far to walk to.
Dreadnought shrugged, not looking away from his screen. "We get all of the gyroscope-related tank purges over in one go?"
"Unconvincing. Your next reason, which could well, since it's you, be the actual reason?"
The battlecruiser flashed the gunformer an evil-looking smirk. "I take my kicks where I can get 'em."
Not for the first time, the Military Operations officer silently mused on what precisely he had done to warrant Dreadnought's constant presence in his life.
2.4 microseconds worth of memory recall presented him with the exact reasons why, all of which he would have chosen to bleach out of his processor had he been given the option.
He exhaled and spared a glance at Crossfire's playpen, where the miniature gun-former was recharging peacefully, sprawled out on his front with his cuddly cyber-cat toy tucked under one arm.
"I would suggest that you remove Crossfire from the control room. Lord Megatron is not overly fond of sparklings."
Dreadnought activated the spacebridge, and leaned far back enough so that he could let his head drop over the edge of the head-rest on his chair, and regarded Shockwave with deadpan optics. "Remind me what time of orn it is?"
The battlecruiser grinned and pointed a giant finger at his companion's chest. "Therefore Shorty is officially your problem, as agreed per the official schedule."
Somewhere in the back of Shockwave's processor, a random spark of electricity travelled from his CPU into his nervous system, making the fingers on his right hand curl involuntarily into claws. Unfortunately, since he was fairly sure Nightraider would have some words to say to him if he simply throttled the battlecruiser, he settled with scooping his creation out of the pen and tucking his tiny frame under his arm.
The rush of cosmic winds and the sudden clang of pedes against plates, followed by a sound best described as a 'huuugyaaaargh', indicated that the senior officers and the Elite trine had finally returned to Cybertron.
An extremely woozy-looking Thundercracker staggered out of the spacebridge gates along with Starscream, currently silent and more than a little pale of optic. Between them was an offline Skywarp, both arms looped around his trine-mate's shoulders. Judging by the energon decorating the purple and black jet's chestplates, it was he who had left the rather copious pink puddle on the bridge plate for the drones to tidy up.
Dreadnought didn't bother looking behind him. Instead he jabbed his thumb over his should in the general direction of the repair bay. "Welcome back, the 'Structies and 'Raider are on duty."
Thundercracker managed to open his mouth long enough without purging. "Thanks."
The Elite trine staggered out as Megatron and Soundwave emerged from the gates; Megatron's upper lip was curled up in mild disgust, while Soundwave remained his usual stoic self. Dumping Crossfire back in his playpen and praying the sparkling wouldn't wake up in the immediate future, Shockwave turned and offered his liege a sharp salute. "My lord Megatron, welcome home."
He nodded in Soundwave's direction. The Communications officer returned the gesture and took his place next to Megatron's side.
The silver gun-former swept a gaze over the control room, his optics missing nothing, before they returned to rest on Shockwave's angular cranium. "And it has been far too long. Soundwave, you are dismissed. No doubt your symbiotes will need to be reawakened after their forced stasis."
He marched towards the doorway, indicating the Military Operations officer should walk with him. "What is our current status?"
"All military areas are operating at 90%; with the return of the Earth troops..." Their voices faded as they headed out of the control room towards the war rooms.
Soundwave stared after the two gun-formers for a moment and sighed inwardly. If even half of what he had picked up from his bondmate's memories were true, Shockwave's talents had been almost wasted on Cybertron. If he had been present on the Nemesis when it had left so many vorns ago, they could have taken Earth within a matter of weeks. But then, if the revelations within the other scant memories he had seen were also true, and if the situation ever did arise where Shockwave's other talents would be required...
"Gotta warn you now, 'Raider's pissed at you."
The Communications officer abandoned his musings and stared at the smirking Dreadnought.
Dreadnought poked at a switch and faked a frown of concern. "Seems you mentioned something about coming back here in six weeks. If my maths are correct, and y'know, being an engineer an' all, they are, you're about two weeks later than you said you'd be. So that equals eight weeks, which equals sore and grumpy femme, which means-"
Soundwave held up a hand. "Point; taken."
"Just thought I should give ya a heads up, is all."
"Warning; unnecessary, but appreciated."
The back of the repair bay was built over two floors and backed onto one of the disused storage bays. While the triple-changers and six-changers were built for endurance and thus needed fewer repairs than most of the ground or aerial troops, when something went wrong with their systems or armour, it tended to go spectacularly wrong.
Or just entertainingly wrong, whichever happened first.
Standing inside the belly of Astrotrain's shuttle form, Hook squinted at a green slime trail emerging from a tear in the triple-changer's plating and Nightraider thumped the side of the interior wall.
"When were you going to say this infection was organic?"
The train/shuttle-former shifted uncomfortably on his wheels. "Never and working backwards from there?"
The femme jet rolled her optics. "Organic substances are the last things that should be around your system! What if this ended up on your wings? One bad landing, and what remains of your aft would get dragged before an investigation board following an autopsy. "
She folded her arms and aimed a glare at the control console in the cockpit of the shuttle. "Where, or more likely, who did you get this from?"
Astrotrain cringed. "Don't know."
The crane surgeon exchanged glances with his colleague. "I believe you'll have to do better than that."
"Seriously, she said she was clean-"
She...oh Primus and all his little Avatars.
Nightraider's expression darkened considerably as she calculated the variables. She ran a cursory digit through the slime trail, rubbed it between her fingers, analysed the scent and stomped out of the shuttle towards the comm. system. Not bothering with privacy for once, she waited for the comm. to pick up, and then roared into it with all the subtlety of a nuclear blast.
"Thunderblast, get your barnacle-ridden aft in here now!"
Astrotrain tried studiously to ignore the multiple optics and optic bands now fixed on him, all of them showing absolutely no mercy. Hook strode out from the belly of the triple-changer, medical datapad in hand and a cruelly amused expression on his faceplates. "As the rumours would put it, you boldly went where many mechs, femmes, and assorted Cybertronian wildlife have gone before."
"Yeah yeah, fragging hilarious. Can't we just stick to the usual line about ports and storms?"
The femme jet turned back to her patient and folded her arms across her cockpit. "Normally I'd take you up on that, but my usual sunny good humour is currently banging its head against the nearest wall."
Blitzwing, who was sprawled out on the berth closest to them, snickered. "Since when do you have sunny good humour?"
"One more word out of you, and you will get an exhaust flush mouth-first."
Nightraider stomped off towards the medical stores, missing the sudden appearance of a very familiar navy and white mech through the repair bay doors.
The familiar scents of energon and cleaning fluids assaulted Soundwave's olfactory sensors as he entered the repair bay, bringing with them a host of memories. Numerous repairs to his limbs and chassis, weapons upgrades and frame upgrades on both himself and the Cassettes, so many nights spent recovering or keeping vigil over his creations, and even further back than the war, the four successful spark spawnings that gave him his family and recovering from the five miscarriages that had occurred before Ravage was successfully onlined.
Closest to the top were the two intimate occasions he and Nightraider had used the weapons upgrade ward for rather more...sensual than surgical procedures. His fuel pump and spark both pulsed slightly faster at the knowledge that his mate was close by, and that, given time and possibly some special pleading, he would be permitted to share his spark and berth with her again.
At his feet, Glit cleared his vents loudly enough to drag the Communications officer out of his musings. Soundwave quickly glanced around and down, and followed the silver feline over to an empty berth. "Cassettes; in stasis. Requirement; assistance in reactivating systems."
He pressed the eject button on his chestplates. "Ravage, Rumble, Frenzy, Laserbeak, Buzzsaw, Ratbat; eject. Operation; awakening."
The six Cassettes landed on the berth, still in their alt-modes and safely in stasis.
The SMO nodded once. "Were there any bridging issues I should be aware of?"
"Issues; none. Laserbeak, Buzzsaw and Ratbat; unaffected by gyroscopic disturbances."
Glit sighed in relief. "Thank Primus. One more purge and I'd've given in my notice."
Soundwave watched as Glit carefully connected up energon and electrical lines to each of the Cassettes' main processors and secondary fuel tanks. Fully aware of the negative effects of space-bridging on flight models, he had placed his three fliers in stasis before they had departed the Nemesis, with Ravage and the twins all choosing to do the same before they bridged from Nevada. The electrical jolt, combined with fresh energon, would reboot their systems with the minimum of discomfort and time.
Glowing pink energon flowed into the Cassettes' tanks, followed by the familiar crackle of electrical currents. Rumble and Frenzy were the first to transform and awaken, the red twin rubbing blearily at his faceplates while his cobalt brother stretched his arms above his head and yawned up at his creator.
"So, we back home now, boss?"
Soundwave nodded, and gently rubbed Ratbat's head at the little bat squeaked and stretched his wings out. "Affirmative."
Frenzy grinned. "Sweet. Where's 'Raider?"
Ravage yawned and uncurled his body, pausing to sniff at Glit's face in a feline gesture of gratitude. Doing her job, if the general state of the flight troops is anything to go by.
The silver feline nodded. "I would amend that statement to 'doing her job, only with more swearing'."
Laserbeak ruffled her wings and scanned the room. Which may explain why she isn't present?
"Oh, she's here. Either threatening chemical mutilation or preparing an antiviral treatment, depending on whom you ask."
The femme under discussion chose that moment to emerge from the medical stores, emptying a vial of silver fluid into a sedative gun and muttering audibly. Astrotrain received about two seconds' warning before Nightraider swabbed his primary energon line with a clean buffing rag, jabbed the gun needle into the thick tubing and emptied its contents into his system.
"Suck it up, lover-mech. Oh wait, you already did."
She slung the rag over her shoulder, removed the used needle from the gun and dropped it into the sharps bin, barely glancing at the newest arrivals.
Soundwave folded his arms across his chestplates and waited patiently.
Nightraider stopped dead. Her optics widened as she surreptitiously glanced down at her fuselage.
The near-constant pain of the past two months had suddenly dropped to an imperceptible flicker. And while medical science could do many things, the one thing no sedative could do was to fully suppress the agony of a stretched spark bond.
Only one thing could manage this.
She turned and locked optics with her bondmate.
Soundwave was the first to reach into the bond. While the physical pain for both of them had mostly been negated through psychic discipline on his side and a veritable cornucopia of drugs on hers, the emotional pain was another matter entirely, especially for his femme.
A surge of rage and hurt met his senses, most of which was simply a result from the physiological strain of the bond, but some of which was directed at him. Mentally, he winced.
The Cassettes, all watching and sensing the interplay between their creator and co-creator, simultaneously flinched.
Buzzsaw quietly leaned over to his feline sibling and snickered through the link. Twenty credits says she kisses him, then kills him.
Ravage sniffed. I would say the latter is more likely to happen first.
Soundwave ignored the whispers and concentrated on the bond.
Behind the femme's hurt, there was a growing sense of relief, teamed with desire, but tempered with the awareness that they couldn't be demonstrative of their affections in front of an audience.
Nightraider removed the rag from her shoulder and made a show of twisting it between her fingers.
Follow my lead.
Soundwave nodded imperceptibly and directed a mental command to his eldest.
Ravage. Keep your siblings occupied and away from our quarters.
The felinoid quirked an eyebrow upwards, but silently acknowledged the order.
Nightraider took that as her cue.
"Hook. Once Thunderblast gets here, do the honours please."
The Constructicon surgeon simply nodded. He was fond of his cranial unit and was quite keen on keeping it attached to his chassis.
The femme jet strode towards the repair bay doors, the rag clenched in one hand and her dental plates gritted. As she stomped past, she flung the cloth at her mate's face with a snarl.
"Eight weeks. Eight fragging weeks. Do you know how long that is?"
With that, she flung the double doors open and strode out of the repair bay, almost barrelling into the wobbling frames of the Elite trine as she left.
Soundwave made a point of slouching his shoulders slightly before marching out after her, ignoring the sniggers from Skywarp and the disgusted snort from Starscream. Thundercracker had elected to keep his mouth shut, but the grin on his face was more than a little obvious.
Rumble and Frenzy glanced at each other and shrugged. The red Cassette twisted his head back to stare at his older brother.
"Guessin' they'll be a while. Wanna see who's around?"
Ravage glanced at Glit, who nodded silently, but with a tiny feline smirk on his faceplates. "You're all free to leave. I understand Cobalt Sentry Howlback is...available, should you wish to start your intelligence debriefing, as is Cobalt Sentry Garboil."
Ravage and Laserbeak simultaneously rolled their optics. The twins snickered, Ratbat giggled, and Buzzsaw simply glowered at the thought of Garboil.
Whether it was from the sudden rush of her catalytic converter going into overdrive from anger, or the knowledge that her bondmate was barely three strides behind her that was making her fuselage shiver as she stomped through the corridors, Nightraider honestly wasn't certain.
"Request; listen to explanation?"
She clenched her fingers into fists and kept walking, feeling her optical fluid levels rise to near-overflow.
Soundwave easily matched her pace, but wisely remained outside of maximum punching distance. "Nightraider...please-"
The femme jet shot him a venomous look. "I waited for you. It hurt. I kept waiting."
"Your pain; not trivial."
Her spark energy flickered through the bond, producing a sensation not unlike claws being dragged down his chassis.
"Did I say anything about pain?"
The Communications officer silently pleaded for any nearby deities to give him strength as they turned into the corridors leading to the officers' quarters. His own rooms were close by and reasonably isolated; none of the senior officers had been keen on letting him reside so close to where their unconscious minds rested.
Nightraider slapped her hand over the access panel and keyed in her override code. Soundwave hovered nervously behind her and tentatively rested a hand on her shoulder.
The F-14 paused for a moment at the contact, resisting the urge to collapse backwards against the navy mech's chest. But it was still too open in the corridors; Shockwave's drones could appear at any time, and the security system in this area of the complex tended to be selective about what it would and wouldn't record.
She shrugged off the hand, exhaled and punched in the remainder of her access code, stomping into the somewhat bare chambers and not bothering to request lights.
Soundwave followed her into the gloom, feeling somewhat apprehensive as the door slid shut and locked behind him. Whether this was an act or genuine rage, he wasn't entirely sure. The bond was clouding his senses to a degree he had never encountered, and while he had regretted every moment not spent with the femme jet, he would be slagged if he was going to be yelled at like a wayward sparkling for simply carrying out his duties.
The clang of metal against metal in front and to his left pulled him out of his musings.
"Lights, one quarter."
The darkness dispersed, revealing Nightraider perched on his desk, one leg drawn up under her chin and her arms elegantly draped over her knee. A very familiar and very filthy smile played about her lips, and the look of murder in her optics had been replaced with a look that wasn't so much 'come hither' as 'get over here NOW and I'll tell you when to stop'.
Soundwave was more than willing to obey. His optic band darkened and his face-mask retracted as he loomed over the femme jet, his hands braced on either side of her fuselage while her knee plating pressed into his torso.
"I will assume a portion of what just passed was a mere act."
One dark hand came up and traced his faceplates before gliding over his neck pistons and halting at the near-invisible seam on his chest plating.
"I'll leave you to work out exactly how much was an act. But right now..."
Her other leg briefly drew up before both limbs wrapped around his hips, pulling him as close as possible to her while their plating was still intact. Being only too happy to fulfil his femme's desires at this point, Soundwave leaned forward and pressed Nightraider's frame against the desk, rolling his hips against hers just hard enough to make her gasp.
His mouth found her neck pistons, his voice now little more than a dark purr between each kiss. "You were saying?"
Most of the femme jet's rationality had wandered off for a drink as soon as the door had locked, but she had enough control over her processor to recall the words Soundwave had spoken to her on their last night on Earth.
"Right now...I suggest we start...making up for lost time."
The navy mech smirked and made a move to lift her up. A firm hand to his chestplates halted his movements.
"The berth would be...more comfortable."
She pressed herself against him, letting him feel the heat radiating from her frame. "Frag the berth."
All of Soundwave's restraint decided to join his femme's rationality in that moment. A growl combined with a roar emerged from his vocaliser as he crushed his bondmate's frame to his and left a trailed of heated kisses against her throat he sought out and finally claimed her mouth with his for the first time in two months.
Rumble tilted his head and stared at Ravage's back as the black feline cautiously poked his head around the corner of the security corridor.
"Not like the kittykat t' be a wimp."
Frenzy lightly smacked his twin upside the head. "D'you ever listen to what Glit says?"
"Is this a trick question?"
"Nnngggh..." The blue Cassette just shook his head and rolled his optics. Buzzsaw, hovering overhead alongside Laserbeak and Ratbat, let out a brief warble of amusement.
Rumble glared upwards. "And what's got you so chirpy?"
Glit merely gave our beloved brother a suitable warning. Howlback is looking for him.
Laserbeak chimed in. Would you want one of the Cobalt Sentries after you? Particularly one whom you had made a...promise to?
The red Cassette grinned expectantly. "You'd know better than we would, sis. Would we?"
Ratbat giggled. Laserbeak merely glowered down at her elder sibling.
That's for me to know, and for you to never speculate on should you wish to live.
Ravage ignored them all and silently padded out into the intersection, his nasal sensors jacked up to maximum on the quite likely chance that a certain blue and silver feline femme was out for his energon, and wouldn't bother with subtle tracking techniques.
The hallway was deserted.
Perfect. Three more halls over, and then he could lurk in the refectory for a few hours until Soundwave and Nightraider had finished getting reacquainted, and then head back and lurk in their quarters.
Unfortunately, two things happened in that moment.
At the sound of the voice behind him, the golden condor's optics widened in dread.
Oh Primus, not him. Anyone else, any other mini-con- frag, any other Cassette-type but him.
Before he had the chance to brace himself and turn around, a familiar wave of sheer ecstasy tore through his and all of his siblings' sparks, driving the twins and Ravage to their knees, and sending the two condors and Ratbat into freefall.
The two seconds' blackout was all the owner of the voice and his stoic companion needed.
Buzzsaw found himself being supported by the blue and white form of Squawktalk, the younger flier almost vibrating with excitement as he helped his idol to land safely on the floor.
"I heard you were back, when were you gonna come and find us? You got a lot to catch up on, frag I don't even know where to start; you heard any of the comms chatter from Lithone? There's gotta be something in the energon there; I mean a flying moon just doesn't appear every orn-"
The young eagle suddenly found a gold and black wing slapped over his beak. Optics wide with surprise, he stared at Buzzsaw in happy anticipation.
You have many things that can be brought to this conversation Squawktalk, but at this moment, bringing silence is the only way to ensure your continued existence. Clear?
Squawktalk wilted slightly, but one glance upwards quickly revived his spirit. He backed off from the golden condor and clicked his beak at the scarlet femme.
"You happy to be back, Laserbeak?"
This is humiliating.
Laserbeak was draped expertly over Garboil's fuselage, her hooked beak twisted into something which passed for an avian pout. A woozy but highly amused Ratbat hung from the Cobalt Sentry's claws as the trio hovered in mid-air. Thank you Garboil!
Garboil nodded politely at the little bat's words, dropped altitude enough for Rumble and Frenzy to retrieve their baby brother, and shrugged the femme's frame more securely over his back.
"Do you wish me to have simply let you fall?"
"Then I quite fail to see what the issue is."
Laserbeak simply nodded sharply in the direction of the twins, both wearing identical smirks on their faceplates as they helped Ratbat to sit up.
"Ah. I do see your point. However, I will confess that my young acquaintance and I were merely a decoy. Your mid-air collapse however, was not anticipated, nor the collapse of your siblings."
Ratbat tilted his head and scanned the intersection. Where's Ravage gone?
Sure enough, there was no sign of the black and silver panther. The rest of the Cassettes and Squawktalk shared a look between themselves while Garboil merely shut his optics and chuckled.
"She is a credit both to her species and the Decepticons as a whole."
At the combination of confused looks, he nodded at the scratch marks on the floor and then down the left-hand corridor. "Howlback. I believe your brother may be...otherwise engaged."
A loud growl echoed down the corridor. Rumble and Frenzy were the first to stick their heads round the corner, just long enough to get a look at the scene and then collapse laughing. The other Cassettes followed suit, all of them having the decency to keep their amusement hidden.
Ravage was sitting bolt upright, red optics wide and a heavy set of scratches across his faceplates as Howlback's smaller frame stalked around his, her dental plates bared and optics narrowed.
Ratbat was the first to speak. What's she doing?
Laserbeak rolled off of her erstwhile suitor's back and ruffled her wings. She's, ah...missed Ravage, and would like to demonstrate that to him in some way that may involve grievous bodily harm.
Ooooh. Should we maybe go the other way and find Soundwave?
Perhaps not if that blackout was anything to go by. I would suggest we make our way to the refectory, double-time.
The little bat frowned. What's double-time?
Squawktalk finally chipped in. "It means really really fast, like Buzzsaw!"
The golden condor clenched his claws together and glared at the eagle. Why are you still saying words?
"I thought we were in a new conversation?"
Buzzsaw just hung his head and groaned.
This could go one of two ways. Either Howlback was going to kill him slowly and intimately, or she was about to do something else to him slowly and intimately. Right now, it was impossible to tell.
Ravage glared at his siblings and their two companions as they flew and trudged across the intersection, all smirking, or, in the case of the twins, sniggering into their fists.
A message rolled across Rumble and Frenzy's HUDs. You are not leaving me here.
The twins paused and waited while the fliers passed by, waving them on to the refectory with their hands and a bellowed promise to meet up in five.
Ostensibly out of Howlback's line of sight, Frenzy folded his armed across his chestplates and grinned. What, the fearless Ravage can't deal with one pussycat?
It's been four million years and she's never been what I would call predictable.
Rumble exchanged a Look with his twin before responding. And you're seriously askin' us for help?
I am fully aware of the flaws in this plan. Right now, it is the only one I have.
The femme felinoid chose that moment to close the gap between them and nuzzled Ravage's face, adding in a loud purr for good measure.
Frenzy just chuckled out loud. I can see what's happenin'.
Rumble picked up the reference immediately. What?
And they don't have a clue.
The black and silver Cassette simply gave them a glare of death. I hate you both.
His brothers simply exchanged smirks and pelted off down the corridor howling with laughter.
Ravage sighed briefly and quickly scanned the corridor before dropping the turbo-fox-in-headlights expression and returning his attention to the lithe frame wrapped around his own. He let his muzzle drop against the back of Howlback's neck just enough to press her head against his shoulder and rest the side of his cheek-plate against her audial, praying he wasn't about to feel claws across his face again.
Howlback merely purred into his shoulder and glanced briefly at the space where the twins had been standing. "And now that our audience has departed, might I suggest we continue our assignation in a more secluded location?"
Ravage growled, feeling his energon heating up. Where would you suggest?
The turquoise and silver femme detached herself from his frame and slunk a few paces up the corridor. "I would suggest your quarters, but judging by your collapse and their shared absence, I believe your creator and his bondmate have already beaten us to it."
And the next best place?
Howlback simply raised an elegant brow. "Failing the first suggestion, anywhere with a door and a lock."
Ravage caught up with her, deliberately pressing his frame against her flank. I believe that can be arranged.
Joints creaking with exhaustion, Nightraider managed to close the latch on her pelvic plating, rolled over and slung her leg across her bondmate's hips, idly studying the wreckage of the room.
"You didn't need that desk for anything, right?"
Soundwave traced the edges of the femme's wings with a finger. "Only for the function it served two joors previously. And I feel certain that I can locate a replacement which offers similar angles."
"Similar, but not precisely the same."
The Communications officer let his hand slide lower. "I would be prepared to test any replacements thoroughly, if you so desire."
Nightraider purred slightly as the hand rested against her hip plating, fingers tracing patterns against the dented metal. "I will take you up on that offer after I get an apology, and after I remember how my limbs work."
Soundwave lifted his torso upwards enough to sit up at the head of the berth, Nightraider shifting a little to allow him movement before she lay back down and rested her head against his tape deck partition.
"Six weeks was what I had promised you. It was not necessarily a guarantee of what would happen."
The femme jet sighed. "I know. But it would've been nice to hear it from you rather than just as a general status update."
"I did not wish to show any...inclination towards you that would have revealed our relationship."
"For the so-called optics and audials of the Deceptions, you really don't pay attention to gossip."
It was Soundwave's turn to sigh. "Gossip in this case referring to whom?"
"Mmmmmh, put it this way, Dreadnought has no CPU/vocaliser filter. By the time Strika had asked me to report to her, all she did was roll her optics, ask if what Dreadnought had been spreading about Darkmount was true, congratulated me and then told me to get the frag out of her office."
"So the entire army is aware of our shared status."
"Honestly, I'm slightly amazed you didn't get asked about it. Or use it to get, I dunno, an early transfer home?"
The navy mech traced the edges of the F-14's cockpit with a fingertip. "I did not want to risk Lord Megatron's ire with any demands regarding a status amendment that he did not fully condone."
Nightraider batted her mech's hand away as she managed to sit up and turned to face him. "Oh really? What would he have done, shot you?"
A fear-tainted memory flickered across the bond. Nightraider's optics widened.
"...He actually threatened you?"
"Ok. That's...not what I'd call reassuring."
An uncomfortable silence fell over the sleeping quarters. Soundwave eventually leaned forward, resting his helm against his femme's.
"I chose these two extra weeks of pain, rather than risk your life and those of my creations. Was that so unreasonable?"
Nightraider closed her optics and leaned a little further forward, not quite close enough to kiss him but enough to feel the heat radiating from his faceplates.
"If you have abandonment issues, then yes. But the whole acting as a life-preserver thing?"
She opened her optics and flashed him a smirk. "I could be inclined to forgive you."
Soundwave's visor darkened. Raising himself onto his knees, he loomed over the femme jet and carefully traced his fingers over her cheekplates. Nightraider let her head fall back as both hands began to sneak a little lower, fingertips brushing over the pistons at the back of her neck.
The navy mech's usual monotone voice dropped to a level which sounded like the living embodiment of Very Bad and Massively Fun Things. "I believe 'reclined' would be preferable to 'inclined'. Unless you would prefer to lead this time?"
Nightraider cracked open one optic, her retort just ready to leave her vocaliser…
-BSSSSSSSHT- "Yo, boss!"
Both Transformers paused. Nightraider visibly deflated and leaned back with a sigh. Soundwave's shoulders slumped.
Rumble, utterly undeterred by the comm. silence, ploughed happily onwards.
"Can someone get the door? Frenz' an' me got baggage."
Ravage's psychic tones wafted through the speaker, exhaustion colouring the customary frustration in his voice when dealing with his younger brothers. I am not baggage.
Frenzy sniggered. "Says the big bad kittykat who can't walk under his own steam."
The F-14 blinked and cleared her vocaliser with a cough, finally breaking the silence. "Frenzy, what do you mean, Ravage can't walk under his own steam?"
She glanced to her side and felt a small burst of satisfaction. Soundwave was already standing at the door, punching in his override code. As the door opened, he knelt down and carefully scooped Ravage's limp black and silver frame out of the twins' grasp into his arms. Scrapes of turquoise and silver paint marred his frame, along with more than a few gashes and bite marks. Oddly enough, the felinoid didn't look either remotely upset or in pain; instead, the waves of smugness radiating from him were almost palpable.
The twins sauntered into the sleeping quarters, neither looking particularly bothered about their elder sibling's condition. Buzzsaw and a disgruntled Laserbeak soared through the doorway and took up their customary perches on the side of the berth, one on each side of the femme jet.
Nightraider made a brief move to greet the twin condors before a flash of purple and gold shot through the doorway and attached itself to her cockpit, screeching all the while.
Laserbeak warbled in glee and stared up at her co-creator. He's missed you. As have we all.
In the femme jet's arms, Ratbat was busy trying to meld himself into the glass canopy covering her chestplates. The screech of delight had managed to calm down long enough to reform into coherent speech.
Or as much coherent speech as the little bat could manage with simply squealing, ImissedyouImissedyouImissedy ouImissedyou at the top of his vocaliser.
She smiled and let Ratbat cuddle into her as much as he needed, while she rested her hands against the scarlet and golden condors' heads, earning a happy trill from both.
Rumble and Frenzy quietly sidled up to the berth and wrapped their arms around one of their co-creator's leg plating in not-so-innocent happiness. The red Cassette beamed up at the jet.
Nightraider returned the smirk and patted Frenzy on the head. "Like a dose of cosmic rust."
"Awww, shucks." Rumble pretended to blush and settled with giggling.
The giggling became more pronounced as Soundwave joined his family on the berth, Ravage's frame still cradled tenderly in his arms. The black Cassette offered an exhausted growl to his siblings and a far more contented purr to Nightraider as she gently scratched him under his chin and gave his injuries a cursory glance.
It is good to see you once again, Femme CMO. Your presence in the link has been sorely missed.
Soundwave scanned his eldest creation's CPU, and inwardly sighed with relief as he picked up only contentment and the aforementioned smugness. In fact, it was a combination of the two that seemed rather familiar, the kind that only came about as a result of…
The Communications officer raised an eyebrow. "You and Howlback reunited."
"If that's what we're callin' it now, then yeah, they did." Rumble's grin took up half his face.
"But no energon lines ripped bro. Maybe she's not as hot for ya as we thought?"
"And you, Frenzy."
Buzzsaw finally decided to intervene on his brother's behalf. Or perhaps she was so relieved to…reunite with him that she didn't want to remove any of his vital fluids.
Ratbat frowned as he peeled himself off of Nightraider's cockpit. Why would she want to remove any vital fluids? Howlback's not a bat!
You do know that I can still hear all of you?
Never one to turn down an opportunity to tease any of her elder siblings, Laserbeak cawed and gently butted Ravage's head with her beak. So? Were your injuries worth it?
The felinoid stared at his sister and smirked.
As my dear twin hellions of brothers would put it, I regret nothing.
Soundwave and Nightraider simply shared a Look.
Unseen and unheard by his creations as they continued to bicker, the navy mech opened the solitary bond between himself and his mate.
I would call this an average evening for them. You…do not regret your choice?
The last remnants of physical pain departed from Nightraider's spark as she heard his words. The emotional hurt caused by her mate's delayed return would no doubt take longer to heal, but they had many more vorns on a Decepticon-controlled Cybertron to heal their respective wounds and make up for lost time.
She smiled, one meant only for him. Never.
I love you.