Disclaimer: Anything you recognise is property of Hasbro/Takara. I am merely playing for my own amusement.
Author Note: This is a direct sequel to Until the Dream Ends. While it will make sense as a stand-alone, it will frequently reference to events and attitudes from its prequel - just to avoid confusion.
An entire stellar cycle had passed like a dream.
Earth, unlike Cybertron, had set of meteorological phenomena known to the sentient indigenous population as 'seasons'. Perceptor had become Starscream's in the late spring, and, just over a stellar cycle later, the days had drawn in and the nights become longer, the light during the daytime was paler, the Autobots' human allies complained of the cold, and the clouds in the sky blotted out the sun and unleashed rain more regularly than they had.
Perceptor was quite partial to the rain washing over his chassis, running down the smooth metal and dripping off stark edges. Starscream hated it.
Naturally, this had meant that their secret meets were even harder to plan. Starscream would only call for Perceptor when he was upset, in a dire mood with Megatron, had recently been humiliated in front of the Decepticons or had excess energy to burn off. Usually they would make the trek to some secluded nature reserve to avoid detection by satellites, but, if the weather was against them, Starscream was very particular about being somewhere indoors, and that usually meant they had to search for some desolate abandoned factory or the like.
Despite the increased danger this added, as discovery by humans was thrown into the risk pool, Starscream refused to negotiate on this; he would not spend any longer in the rain than was absolutely necessary, and, whenever the possibility of being found was pointed out to him, he would just lick his lips in a hungry, feral way and whisper about how much more fun that would be, which never failed to send shivers through his partner's infrastructure.
No matter how many times Perceptor asked, Starscream refused to elaborate quite why he hated the feel of rain or the similar phenomena such as hail and snow so much. He would just snarl threateningly, or silence the question with a fierce kiss.
Perhaps it was to do with his extreme haphephobia, though that was certainly improving. Finally, Starscream could stomach having Perceptor instigate a contact without flinching away. Finally, Perceptor could return the caresses without having his partner tense and tremble – not in pleasure but in fear – beneath him. As long as he gave sufficient warning and did not take the seeker by surprise, there would be no wince, no pulling away.
But Starscream could not stand the sensation of rain splashing down onto him; it made him cringe.
Remarkably, though, neither had been caught or even suspected of consorting with a member of the enemy faction. Perceptor had done his very best to disappear into the background, and he had succeeded. His comrades barely seemed to notice him nowadays; his fame after his ordeal as a Decepticon prisoner had been unwanted and, thankfully, short-lived. As a natural recluse, he had had no trouble melding into the background again, pretending to be absorbed with his work.
On the other hand, Starscream seemed to have gone out of his way to draw attention to himself, to belittle Megatron, to have his leader's wrath visited upon him. Perversely, though he often came with fresh wounds from having been the wrong side of the unforgiving Decepticon commander's fist, his faction did not seem to suspect that he was deviating from protocol. Perhaps it was because they were so used to his vying for power that this was not at all out of the ordinary and they had no reason to think anything was going on.
The communicators had helped a lot, of course. Thinking to re-use the devices had been a stroke of brilliance on Starscream's part.
Hook had designed them well, using a mixture of his own intricate, perfectionist prowess at engineering and construction and the fundamentals of bond theory. Quite successfully, he had simulated a faint and incomplete version of the connection between two joined partners, though the impulses were sent in language rather than emotion. What's more, as custom-built components, they were not recognisable as communication devices to Autobot medics, as well Perceptor knew.
He had almost had trouble with his at first. Ratchet, caring and worried about the possible ways he had been dealing with the stress of post-trauma, had called him in for an overhaul. While going through internal circuitry, he had found the communicator and asked what it was.
Thinking quickly, Perceptor had used Starscream's initial response, claiming it was a pain-numbing device. A comprehending smile crossed Ratchet's face as the ambulance-transformer told the microscope that he was a genius indeed before finishing his examination.
Starscream would call for Perceptor mostly when everything was not right with the world through his jaded optics. It would not be far wrong to say that Perceptor occasionally felt as though he was only being used as something to take the Decepticon's mind off less pleasant matters.
Even though they had met many times, had engaged in the most intimate acts of trust and love many times, Perceptor was still not entirely at ease with his mate. It was hard to forget the monstrosities that Starscream was capable of; even now, over half an Earth year later, Perceptor's torso still sometimes tingled unpleasantly along scar lines that were not visible on his chassis. Along wounds from an energon whip that had long ago healed. Even now, sometimes, he would be woken from recharge to sit bolt upright, the gears in his limbs locked tense and quivering, thinking he could see the crackling line being drawn back by a shadowy figure, thinking he could hear cruel laughter echoing in the distance.
It was all in his mind, he told himself, but he knew it was not something that would be forgotten for a long time yet.
His unease was what had urged him to leave the bomb he had installed in Starscream's side well alone – just in case. He had a feeling that the seeker had forgotten about it, for it was never mentioned and Starscream showed no fear in his advances. Advances which were undeniable, dominating and somehow still comfortable and a result of almost every one of their secret meetings.
But then, sometimes, rarely, Starscream would not instigate a spark-merging or even any sort of physical contact. Sometimes, when he was far worse off than usual, with strips of metal hanging off him, or in a bout of severe depression, he would seek the company merely to talk.
Perceptor liked those times the best. No matter how good Starscream could make him feel, with those talented fingers running all over his exostructure, there was something indescribable about just sitting and listening to the problems and thought processes of someone who most others, of both factions, deemed untouchable.
Not only that, but when Perceptor responded in a way that earned Starscream's approval, the seeker would show it by capturing his bondmate's lips in a kiss – not rough or dominating or demanding like they usually were, though. Just a kiss. Just warmth and tenderness and need and caring, and all other notions of stability that were not easily associated with the unpredictable Decepticon lieutenant.
Perhaps it was conceited to admit, but the microscope was quite sure that he now knew more about Starscream than anyone else, possibly even Skyfire. While it was likely he was not aware of the seeker's physical capabilities and limits to the extent Megatron was, it was certainly doubtful that any other Transformer had had quite so much insight into the psyche and spark of the friendless, arrogant jet.
He was... exceedingly resentful, spiteful and unforgiving. That much, if it had not been obvious before, had been illustrated very definitely during one of their nights together, when Perceptor had been trembling beneath the larger robot's fleeting caresses. Unfocussed and unable to think straight with the haze of pleasure, the microscope had made some breathy remark about how talented Starscream was. He'd assumed that the seeker would have had lots of practise – he didn't know why he'd assumed that, in retrospect, he had just in his mind associated Starscream with the carnal arts for some reason.
"No," Had been the response, given with no small amount of amusement, "you're the first partner I've had since my lover died."
"But Skyfire is still alive..." Perceptor had murmured, confused. Starscream's hands had lifted off him abruptly, the air commander's voice had turned cold and dismissive and deeply, deeply bitter.
"He's dead." He had spat viciously. The detachment in his tone and the flare of mixed anger and hurt in his spark had been enough to even make Perceptor shudder. "That – that thing wearing his body is not my Skyfire."
And he had transformed and disappeared into the night without another word to his bondmate, who had worried his lower lip for a long time, hoping that he hadn't offended the Decepticon too much.
Orns had passed and Perceptor had heard nothing from his partner. He was beginning to think that he had crossed a line and gone too far, that Starscream would not come back to him, when the seeker renewed the contact, demanding a new meeting.
That meeting had been perhaps the only one which had been unpleasant. Starscream was in a foul mood, abusive and offensive; it was caused by a mixture of maltreatment at the hands of his leader, which had left one of his legs crumpled and useless, and his burning, seething hatred of Skyfire, which had not died down since Perceptor had inadvertently mentioned him.
As soon as the microscope had come into vocal range in the small lakeside copse that they had chosen for that particular time, Starscream had demanded he get on the ground and lie supine with his chest open. His voice had left no room for argument. Perceptor had had a fleeting urge to detonate that bomb, thinking he was going to be punished somehow, but he held back, just in case the seeker's intentions were innocent. It was a good thing he did.
While what happened could be called a punishment, it would also be fair to call it both a warning and an explanation. Starscream had barely been able to speak, his voice high and grating and choked off before he could form words. While limping over to top the smaller robot (it had been hard to tell whether he had voluntarily lain over Perceptor or stumbled and fallen as his crippled leg gave way beneath him), he had somehow put it across that the microscope was never to bring up the one that the seeker called 'that thing'.
Then he had initiated a bond, taking Perceptor by surprise. Before the scientist had time to do anything, even gather himself together, Starscream was flooding him with memories of digging Skyfire out of the Arctic wastes, of rescuing him from his icy prison. Of the seeker's hope and ecstasy at seeing the loved one he had given up as dead. Of Starscream telling Megatron they were old friends and that Skyfire would not let them down. Of Skyfire's promising to try and bring Starscream credit, even if he did not agree with the Decepticon cause. Of his betraying them and joining with the Autobots.
Of Starscream reaping the consequences of his lover's treachery.
It had been passed into his recall databanks as a rushed mix of crude and jumbled memories, but Perceptor could not ever remember Starscream being more sincere or more sane than he was then.
The Autobot had felt terrible. He couldn't speak to Starscream afterwards, not even to apologise, and, when he returned to the Ark later that night, he could barely look at his taller friend Skyfire without feeling a lurch in his core.
And, even then it was bittersweet, because he knew, on some level, without being told, that he was being let in to memories that no one else knew. Who else would Starscream have trusted with something that could so easily be construed as a weakness in a Decepticon mind? It was not the sort of thing that such a high-ranking officer in either faction would do, let alone someone who was as versed in the laws of deceit and betrayal as Starscream. That he had let Perceptor in so far was reassuring at the same time as upsetting, for it showed beyond a doubt that the Autobot was more than just a possession, he was a partner.
Having learned not to mention Skyfire, Perceptor had reminded himself to shy away from any topics of relationships or the like for those few occasions that Starscream wanted to exchange words instead of overloads. He needn't have worried, for Starscream had not wanted to talk since. Since then, every meeting ended with an overload.
He wasn't sure if he'd lost the seeker's trust or if Starscream had divulged all he wanted to. It didn't matter either way. Perceptor was happy with what he had. He could not ask for more, he did not want to ask for more.
And so the days had passed, with progress on understanding the enigma that was Starscream slow but sure. Winter was setting in and the nights and the dreams were becoming longer.
"Tilt your head back further." Commanded the dark-faced jet, his optics glowing as twin pinpoints of light in the dankness of the cavern they had found. Outside, the rain beat a loud and heavy melody on the rock ground.
Perceptor did as he was bidden, having little choice in the matter; Starscream's blue hand was around his neck, pressing it back insistently. The grip, while not tight enough to hurt, was firm and unrelenting, undeniably controlling. The microscope exposed his throat.
He had found, during their relationship, that Starscream loved his neck. He had an obsessive fascination with it. He could spend breems tracing the cables, pinching at the wires, brushing barely-there touches over the primary energon vein.
It was because of how vulnerable it was. The pharyngeal metal was soft and pliable, weak to attacks and susceptible to damage. A Transformer could survive without his body if his head was wired up to an artificial life-support machine that would supply him with the necessary energy, but, in most situations, any mech who sustained a wound to the main arterial energon vessel would lose brain capacity within kliks and would die within half a breem.
Starscream could tear a hole in Perceptor's neck with his bare hands and the Autobot would bleed to death before he could even put out a distress signal.
Because of that thrill of power, the knowledge he held a life in his hands and the knowledge that Perceptor was letting him, Starscream was fascinated with the white-faced scientist's throat. He would cherish it, bite at it, run his fingers down it, working himself up into a frenzy until his vents were thrumming heartily to cool his overheating systems. Then he would moan and shiver and demand caresses on his wings before, sometimes quite forcefully, bonding with his smaller mate.
The Autobot felt himself pressed up against the cave wall, almost off the ground. A hand on his waist pinned him there, the other moving up to grip his chin between thumb and forefinger, allowing his head to be tilted at his bondmate's leisure and convenience. Starscream nuzzled his throat, emitting occasional groans as though unable to contain himself.
Blazing scarlet optics dimmed. Perceptor felt the heat from the jet's vents rush over his body and he was unable to suppress an answering pant of his own.
"Touch me," came the hoarse command from the seeker's mouth, the sound sending vibrations juddering down the connector cables of the pale neck. The microscope responded by manipulating the metal plating of the grey wings as he knew Starscream liked it; tender at first and then digging his fingers in almost hard enough to leave scratches. The seeker's wings were now riddled with dents like those over the Decepticon insignia, all of them from their playing.
A high-pitched whine emanated from the seeker's vocaliser, seemingly out of his control, as he arched his wings into the strokes, his cockpit crunching against the catch on Perceptor's retractable examination tray. Before the scientist could voice his appreciation, however, the hand at his throat tightened, blunt-edged fingers pressing hard enough to dent the metal and even puncture it.
His intended murmur of Starscream's name died in his throat, overtaken instead by a whimper of discomfort. One of hands moved up from the seeker's wings to catch the blue wrist and try to dissuade Starscream from clenching so hard.
"You're hurting me..." He managed, but it Starscream didn't listen. Perceptor's strangled complaints were drowned out by the whirring of vents and the whining of his vocaliser, punctuated by faint moans of pleasure.
Starscream jolted and tensed, his vocalisations stopping abruptly as he threw his head back towards the sky. Optics dim and mouth hanging loosely open, Perceptor knew that his mate had reached an overload, though was being inexplicably quiet about it – usually he would screech for the world to hear.
The air commander slid to the floor contentedly, his now-limp hand falling from around Perceptor's throat. Finally the Autobot was able to relax, and he eased himself down to sit next to his mate, leaning his back against the cool rock of the cavern interior, massaging his sore neck with one hand, trying to ease the finger-sized dents from the soft metal.
And he waited for the thrumming of Starscream's vents to subside, for the slight glow in crimson eyes that signalled Starscream's higher functions slotting back into place.
Wordlessly, the Decepticon sat himself up and brushed the dirt from his fuselage with a disdainful hand before deigning to look at his mate. Azure optics stared into his red dolefully as the grey hand fell from the white neck.
"You hurt me." The meek Autobot stated, his tone carefully devoid of accusation or upset.
"I liked it." Was the snappish response as Starscream gave a weak snarl, disliking being chided as he was still basking in the afterglow of his overload. He didn't offer an apology, and Perceptor knew better than to expect one.
The microscope moved his hand over to rest the flat of his palm on the tip of Starscream's cockpit. "Please don't do it again, if I ask to you ease off then please listen to me."
Some indistinct noise came from the Decepticon's vocaliser, the disgust on his face showing he was not happy with this development. Perceptor took his chance and moved closer, cupping a dark cheek with his spare hand. It was a huge improvement; Starscream barely shuddered at all.
Understanding that he was not likely to make any more progress concerning Starscream's roughness, Perceptor allowed himself to let the subject go. He sat there, stroking his fingers across the metal of Starscream's face for breems, still amazed that the jet was open to such tenderness – it was a stark contrast to his usual state, when all his actions screamed violence.
"Feeling better?" He asked quietly at last; when Starscream had contacted him and demanded the meeting, the seeker had been smarting from another humiliating defeat at Megatron's hands, and had vehemently complained that he could not walk past another Decepticon without being laughed at.
The only audible response was a grunt, but Starscream brought his hand up to cup the back of Perceptor's head, preventing the Autobot from pulling away when he brought their lips together hungrily. That was enough of a positive answer for the microscope.
Outside, the rain was easing off. There was a mist that hung near the sodden ground, eerily catching the light from the few stars that peeked through the cloud blanket.
"You were not there today." Starscream stated hoarsely.
"No. It wasn't a scientific expedition. I wasn't needed." Instantly, Perceptor knew that the air commander was referring to an Autobot patrol sent out earlier that same day. It had been ambushed. Though there had been no deaths, all those involved had suffered pretty severe injuries; Perceptor, Ratchet, Wheeljack and Hoist had been kept busy from the warriors' return to the Ark right into the early night, when the microscope had snuck away for his rendezvous.
"Shame." The jet bared his teeth and licked over them. "I would have liked to see your energon splashing over me again."
Recoiling a little, the Autobot tried to work out whether or not Starscream was joking. It was not easy. "Oh, stop it."
"You should have seen what I did to your friend Prowl. He was asking for it."
Starscream laughed at the stern request, brushing his lips over a white cheek at the Autobot's disgust. While he was fond of the jet, Perceptor was well aware he was still a fierce warrior, and he did not like to hear in detail about the wounds inflicted on his friends. Ratchet had treated Prowl, but Perceptor had seen the tactician when he had been brought in, supported by Jazz and Ironhide. He had been in terrible shape.
"Why do you like to cause pain anyway?" He asked quietly, old wounds on his torso alive with unpleasant fiery tingles as he struggled to comprehend the pleasure that Starscream took from the suffering of others.
A twisted smile crossed the grey lips.
"What's not to enjoy? They're helpless at my mercy, I have complete control over them, and then they beg me, promise me they'll do anything just as long as I end it..." An exhalation of heated air as the smouldering optics flared, staring directly into Perceptor's calm azure.
It was sickening to hear, and Perceptor had to fight the urge to cringe away. The idea of being around someone who not only confirmed himself as a sadist but took such pride in it was not one he relished, but something still compelled him to stay right there.
Maybe it was the way that Starscream's head fell down into his lap.
The seeker had proven himself surprisingly clingy, as though he was starved of attention. While he was still getting over his dislike of being touched, he seemed to revel in, and even go out of his way to ensure, that his chassis could press up against his mate's.
Once again, it had been an unexpected discovery, for Perceptor had associated such tenderness with Autobots only, not for a moment believing that the cruel and sociopathic Decepticons indulged in such activity. And yet here was Starscream, who Perceptor would swear was yearning to be held were he not aware of the jet's distinct fear of being touched.
Understanding Starscream was like trying to stop a Cybertronian guardian drone single-handedly. It was not something that could be done easily, if at all. No matter how far Perceptor thought he had gone into the seeker's psyche, there were always so many more layers complicating the process – and Starscream sometimes seemed to be a completely different person while around his mate.
Insights into the seeker's spark through their bonding had explained away very little. It was hard for Perceptor to fully appreciate the thought processes of the Decepticon air commander, who was unstable and seemed not only unashamed of that but apparently revelled in it and the fear it instilled in friend and foe alike.
Sometimes, such as now, with Starscream's head cradled in his lap, it was hard to see the jet as the monster he was so capable of being. Perhaps that was just another of the reasons Perceptor stayed.
And it was then, looking down at his partner, that the microscope noticed the slight denting on the grey neck, shallow depressions that were finger-sized and slightly elliptical. With one dark hand, he tilted the jet's chin back for a better look. Surprisingly, Starscream did not complain or resist.
"Megatron?" Only one word needed to be asked, and Perceptor knew the answer before it was given. After all, how else could the marks have got there?
The air commander nodded and his thin face twisted in a smirk. "That glitch-spawned malfunction can't admit when he's outclassed. Any rational being would understand that speed and guile would trump storming in and wasting everything as a strategy. But he's too conceited to admit that I'm better than him."
Perceptor's face contorted in disapproval. "Must you keep provoking him? One of these days you'll push him too far and he'll end up killing you."
"Keh, you worried?" Snorted the Decepticon lieutenant in amusement. His mild-mannered mate sighed and nodded.
"Yes, I am. I don't want him to take you away from me."
"As if, I'm not out-dated enough to let him kill me. Let him try. I'll always be better than him, and soon enough I'll lead the Decepticons. And then," his eyes burned fiery red, "I will destroy the Autobots and take you as my personal slave."
"Oh hooray." There was no point in getting worked up about the ambitions that Starscream laid before him; it could only lead to an argument, and Starscream loved to tease him like this, to see if he could make the scientist angry. Instead, Perceptor let himself respond with dripping sarcasm. "Thank Primus I'm not on your death list."
Starscream snorted. "Y'can't fight back if you're dead. It's more fun when they fight. It's more fun when they scream."
Silently, Perceptor ran a hand over the dark helmet, petting his mate's head. Starscream liked his victims to be vocal. Perceptor knew this well, as the jet so often demanded he be loud during their joining, even though the Autobot found crying out somewhat embarrassing, as naturally quiet and introvert as he was.
Hmm. His internal chronometer was telling him he had already been here for too long.
"I should go." He murmured, longing for a time when they could be together in the open instead of sneaking around in secret. But no one would ever allow it. Not after their violent history. They would claim he had been brainwashed or blackmailed into being Starscream's, they would not accept that he could have consented of his own free will, they would not accept that he enjoyed, no, that he loved being in the Decepticon's arms, being teased into pleasured screams.
He wanted to throw his head back and cry for the world to hear that this was his choice and he did not for a moment regret making it, because Starscream, the most despised of the Decepticons, could make him feel like no Autobot ever could – despite everything they had been through.
"Whatever." Snerked the jet, pushing himself to his feet and wiping cave grime from his paintwork before walking to the mouth of the cave. He had transformed into his vehicular mode and, with a burst of flame and heat from his afterburners, disappeared into the clearing night sky before Perceptor had a chance to say goodbye.
The microscope shook his head to himself as he made his way back to his own people at a slow and leisurely pace. The rain had stopped, and the fresh smell it left was pleasing to his olfactory sensors. It was almost always like this. Starscream rarely stayed for farewells, he just took what he wanted and left, only to summon Perceptor when he was 'needed'.
He hadn't even been brought to overload this time. This time, Starscream really had taken what he wanted and given nothing back. As soon as he had reached his peak, he had forgotten all about bringing Perceptor over the edge. Such was his selfishness.
But Perceptor wouldn't have it any other way, because it was Starscream that he was bonded with, not anyone else. Yes, it had been a mistake, but he had continued it by choice. It would not be the same if Starscream were to change.