Disclaimer: I, in no way, shape, or form, own the Transformers© franchise or the characters it contains. All publicly recognizable characters are copyrighted to Hasbro, and the respective artists/writers/et cetera. No infringement intended.

Continuity: Generation One (G1) Cartoon-verse

Characters: Skyfire, Starscream

Warnings: Slash. Starscream / Skyfire

Author's Note: Criticism encouraged, technical points preferable.

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"You're filthy."

Skyfire looked down at himself, frowning. His normally white body was streaked with grey and black dirt, dulling it to a mucky brownish shade, particularly dark at his feet and hands. He plucked free a few stray bits of primal vegetation from a seam in his hip joint. "So I am," He acknowledged in an ambiguous rumble, shrugging off the concern. It wasn't that unusual; after all, they had just gotten back from a long jaunt to the nearby dead planet, in a basic survey. Being grimy was just part of the job.

Glancing up, he frowned anew. Starscream was perfectly immaculate, absolutely sparkling from a recent, thorough cleaning. The smaller scientist scowled, propped up against the wall so as to best display all his shining, hygienic glory.

That made no sense. The tetrajet had been even filthier than he was, having been nearly black from the thick layer of dust the last Skyfire had seen him.

Feeling abruptly awkward, Skyfire turned away, fiddling with his recent geological samples, adjusting them although they were already arranged perfectly. In truth, he was somewhat mortified, to be in such a bedraggled state. When they had both been disheveled, it hadn't been an issue of merit; there was no judgment from either party, since they were in roughly the same state.

But, with Starscream coming out so clean and he being in such shabby repair… well. It wasn't exactly a wonderful shape to present himself in. Certainly, they had seen each other in states of disrepair from experiments gone awry, even in the short time they had known one another. Now that they had finally, officially been commissioned as field researchers, he wanted to remain such. To allow himself to fall into such poor condition – and remain that way, when his partner had found the time to clean himself up – was not a characteristic he wished to be remembered for. It hardly left a good impression, and he was desperate to impress his new cohort.

And, maybe, even catch his optic for longer than a moment…

The acute sensation of embarrassment grew exponentially, causing him to hunch in upon himself. Cautiously, he looked out of the corner of one optic—

His partner had left.

Feeling both relieved and disappointed, Skyfire again looked to his neat little tray, unenthusiastically nudging the core samples about. Primus, couldn't anything go right for him?

Accusingly, he stared down at the captured pods of soil, disliking how closely his hands matched their shade. Absently, he tried to wipe away the larger streaks of grime, only succeeding in creating a more even spread of the grit. Again, he swiped the film of dirt, mouth tugging down petulantly as, yet once more, he only made the problem worse.

"It's better with solvent."

A light brush of fingers flicked across the back of his arm, drawing his gaze down and to the side.

Starscream grinned readily, with only the barest trace of uneasiness under his smirk. "You won't get rid of it that way."

Skyfire continued to stare at the small hand, resting ever-so-innocently against his arm. A peculiar warmth spread from the contact, soothing his ruffled nerves. It would be easy, from this angle, to turn about, to grab his shoulders and—

Reflexively, he jerked his arm away, breaking the connection.

A brief flicker of emotion moved across Starscream's face. He stepped away, allowing the wall of distance imposed between them to close once more.

Skyfire was grateful for the buffer. It let him think more clearly.

"I'm… sorry," He mumbled, ashamed at how harsh the gesture had been. He hadn't meant to be so rude, inwardly cursing himself for a fool after being so uncouth. "I—"

"It's better if you use a rag and some solvent," The tetrajet spoke over him, dismissing further apology. He pointed toward the doorway, where the necessary supplies rested. "I thought that, since you were obviously too busy to tend to yourself, I'd just…" He offered a half-grin. His voice seemed all teasing lightness, but Skyfire heard a bare trace of hurt under the offer.

Skyfire shifted about, subspacing his samples to allow him something to distract him, if only for a moment. "No, thank you. I can do it myself." He murmured, refusing to turn back around. He inwardly cringed at how his voice seemed to growl, almost hostile. To soften his behavior, he tentatively asked, without turning, "Is… is there anything else you…?"

"No, nothing else," Starscream responded, waving off the inquiry. "I'm just going to go… write up the report." He spun away, quickly disappearing around the bend of the entryway, sparing Skyfire from further humiliation.

Without even a hint of a goodbye.

Troubled, Skyfire at last turned to face away from the counter, leaning his impressive bulk against it, covering his face in one hand. Not a moment after, he grimaced, knowing that the gesticulation would provide yet more dirt to scrub off.

Sighing, he let his hand slip away to thud softly against the counter, letting it hang limply at his side. On misstep after another, ever since he had met Starscream. Never before had he been so clumsy, so very loutish in interpersonal relations. If anything, he had been quite affable, well-liked at his previous station.

The transfer had been so perfect – to be a field researcher in such a large facility… it was a hope he had dared not entertain. And they had gotten along so well, straight from the onset. He found his partner's cutting wit refreshing, his exuberance a pleasant counterpoint to his own fastidious, pedantic nature. Of course, it had to be taken in slow steps; first lab partners, working on experimental methods and differing chemical compounds to become used to one another's methods. And now, field researchers both, given leave to explore the greater scope of the cosmos.

It had all gone so well.

Too well.

Skyfire found himself… awkward, graceless on his own feet around the much more nimble jet. His words came out wrong; his body cumbersome in comparison to how it had been before. It was incredibly frustrating, seemingly without cause or justification, a strange malady. He had even gone so far as to register himself for a full systems check, against the dim possibility of some sort of malfunction.

But nothing was outwardly wrong with him. Still, the incongruity of his own conduct persisted. Over time, with careful analysis of his surroundings and symptoms, he managed to identify the anomaly.

Evidently, his partner was the epicenter of his tribulations.

Further exploration of his inexplicable ailment had led to… incompatible results. It was not a scientific process, having no thorough course of logic and rationalization to arrive at his conclusions. Instead, he 

relied one what was felt. He found himself feeling… funny, when in the tetrajet's presence, as if his spark had suddenly swelled in its casing. A tickling sort of warmth, one that was as pleasant as it was horrifying. Without any perceptible substantiation, he wanted to reach out and just touch the jet, for no discernible reason at all.

He didn't understand it. And, as a scientist, that disturbed him to no end.

So, he attempted to ignore the feelings, the abnormality of his comportment. Physical contact was kept to the minimum. For a time, that had worked, quashing the curious sensations.

But, now, that defense was crumbling, resulting in ever-wilder manifestations of his affliction. And it hurt, to push Starscream away, to be so cool and distant when he wanted – dreadfully – to have the easy camaraderie of their initial contact.

It had even begun to affect both of their respective performances, and personal interactions.

Was he destroying their fragile sense of allegiance with his coldness?

The thought both made him distraught and relieved. To be without Starscream was to again be master of himself. With the jet gone, he could go back to the way he had been; happy; comfortable within his niche in life, in a career he loved more than life itself.

But the merest contemplation of such a separation… he didn't understand how such a simple concept could provoke such a slue of emotional backlash. The very notion – the barest insinuation of severance – distressed him greatly, eliciting a painful contraction deep within his chest; his very spark rebelling against such an idea.

Surely feeling such a deep… fondness was not worth the pain it caused. It was not reciprocated, obviously. It would be better to leave, to return to his old post, and continue as he had left off, and let these feelings wither and die.

Upset, Skyfire shoved away from his impromptu prop, trudging toward the cleaning center, scooping up the sanitization implements on his way out. He knew he wouldn't leave. Because, if there was any chance, even the slightest, that Starscream could ever feel the same…

He couldn't go back.

It was a short walk to the wash room, being only a few doors down from their communal lab. The astringent lights showed him in stark relief to the beige paneling of the walls, riddled with numerous hoses and drainage ports.

Carefully, he set the solvent and other assorted cleaning tools aside, stepping under one of the many rinsing stations. The motion sensors, picking up his presence, activated the sequence, sending down a deluge of liquid, scouring away the bulk of the grime that coated him. He reached out, snagging one of the larger rags, and began to meticulously scrub away at his exterior, letting the blackened soil slide free into the drains, whirlpooling as it disappeared.

Once his front and both arms were well cleaned, he moved to his legs, flexing his joints to free the more stubborn clumps from their moorings. It was difficult work; his large, blunt fingers were not meant for such tiny spaces, thwarting many attempts to fully excavate the grit.

With as much of the grime out as he could manage, he reluctantly straightened, knowing that the granules would eventually work themselves free.

Now for the tricky part.

Forlornly, he glanced around the cleaning station, searching in vain for a high-pressure nozzle. At his old station, such were common enough, allowing him to readily clean his back and shoulders. However, at his new institution…

Frowning, he turned and angled himself best he could to allow the liquid sanitizer to spray off the bulk. Unfortunately, the pressure left much to be desired, allowing large sections that required further buffing to 

remain, clinging obstinately to his exterior.

Grunting in exasperation, he straightened, flailing with the rag one hand, trying to slap the dirt free. He twisted about, desperately arching his back—

And watched Starscream pace by the doorless entryway, ostensibly absorbed in his datapad.

Skyfire froze in his precarious pose, watching with wide optics as the jet walked by without note or comment, completely ignoring the unfortunate shuttle and his strenuous battle. Only once his steady footfalls had retreated fully back into their mutual laboratory did Skyfire allow tensed cables to relax, settling his raised foot back onto the firm plating.

Slowly, the shuttle let his arm fall, absolutely humiliated though he had – outwardly, in any case – gone unobserved. He stood, indecisively clutching at the rag, staring out the doorway, thoroughly soaked down to his waterproofed internals.

Perhaps...

After a moment, he took a diffident step, followed by another, the barrage of liquid ceasing as he went out of range. Once he was at the entrance, he leaned his upper torso and head out, staring down the empty corridor. The laboratory was mostly quiet, with only the rattle of a few objects being moved about to better accommodate whatever activity his partner was up to.

Activating his vocalizer, he called, "Starscream?" wincing at how very diffident his normally loud voice sounded.

There was no verbal response, his quiet query fading anonymously into silence. Something clanked in the lab, followed by a soft explicative.

Again, louder, "Starscream?"

The muttered cursing paused.

He nearly withdrew back into the cleaning chamber, nervously tapping a finger against a wall panel as indecision struck him. But the jet peeked out a moment before Skyfire could hide again behind the wall. "Yes?" He seemed distracted; voice that terse little snap that he assumed whenever he was interrupted in his train of thought.

Skyfire ducked slightly, abashed. "I… I was just…"

"Just what?"

The shuttle gestured helplessly, feeling particularly foolish having the conversation while cringing behind the wall. "I… I can't quite reach…" Mortified, he shook his head, intending to withdraw back to fight with the problematic water pressure system.

But understanding lit up Starscream's optics. "Oh. I see. Just a moment." He disappeared a moment, his datapad thunking heavily and skittering across a counter. Skyfire flinched as he heard the delicate piece of equipment overshoot the edge, clattering across the floor. Ignoring the probable destruction of what most likely amounted to his hundredth datapad, the tetrajet strolled casually back out into the hallway, waving Skyfire back into the cleaning room.

Meekly, Skyfire backed away from the door, standing slightly off center, fingering the used rag in dismay. In a matter of astroseconds – hardly enough for proper mental fortification – Starscream rounded the bend, giving him a succinct perusal. "You missed some," He informed the shuttle, pointing at his still-mildly-dirty legs.

Skyfire shifted, discomfited. "I… I couldn't quite get to all of it."

"You don't say," The jet drawled, the corner of his mouth pulling up in a smirk.

"And I couldn't reach my wings." Skyfire mumbled, pointing back over his shoulders to indicate the general 

region.

"Ah."

For a time, they stared at each other, uncertain of how to begin. Then, Starscream unexpectedly broke the silence, clapping his hands together briskly. He nodded to Skyfire, twirling his wrist in a gesture meant to indicate 'turn around' snagging a fresh rag in his free hand.

Cautiously, Skyfire ambled about, still clasping his utterly soiled cloth. His cables and joints tightened, tensed as if he were preparing to spring away from some great threat.

But Starscream approached with calculated indifference, putting the clean rag to Skyfire's still dripping back. He started with easy circles, buffing away the worst of the grime, before brushing it away in one clump, working with an efficiency that spoke of long experience.

It wasn't the hard, fast scrubs of a mechanism in a hurry. Nor could it be called the slow draw of intimacy. Instead, it was something between, relaxing rather than stimulating. Against his better judgment, Skyfire found himself leaning into the soothing motions, slackening his taut cables. It felt nice, to have such an unrepentant contact between them, with nothing expected or questionable about it.

And, he had to give credit where it was due: Starscream was good.

To break the silence – companionable as it might have been – he blurted, "Have you done this before?" Instantly regretting the awkward beginnings of the conversation.

The gentle circles paused, briefly. "Once or twice," Starscream replied charily, his touch perceptibly withdrawing as he continued his ministrations. "Why?"

"I was just curious. You, ah, seem to know what you're doing." Skyfire shrugged, grimacing at his own lack of tact. When had he lost all sense of good taste in conversation?

Starscream, however, seemed unaffected by his lack of etiquette, snickered roguishly. His voice dropped lower, almost becoming husky, as he chuckled, "Heh. Well. Let's just say I know my way around a shuttle."

Inexplicably, Skyfire stiffened, as if struck. With a supreme effort of will, he forced himself to relax again, squashing the sudden rush of jealousy – and, yes, hurt – the welled up in his spark. It was meant to be a joke, to lighten the atmosphere. Nothing more. He was overreacting. It wasn't as if he had a justified reason to warrant such a response, in any case. Such things hardly applied to him. After all, he had no claim on Starscream; the jet could do as he wished, with whomever he wished.

Even if it wasn't him.

"Really?" He ground out, ignoring his further boorishness as he firmly suppressed any lingering feelings of betrayal.

It was then he became aware of the lack of contact between them.

"Something wrong?" Starscream asked, carefully, as if he feared he had treaded upon some delicate subject.

"No, no. Everything's fine. I'm sorry. You… pressed a little firmly on a sensitive area." He rumbled the half-truth, glancing back to gauge Starscream's expression. When the jet's countenance remained dubious, he affirmed his case, offering a half-smile. "It's fine."

The jet hesitated, and then tentatively set himself back to task, briskly working out the thick dirt. Both remained quiet this time, letting him work his way down and around the shuttle's back and wings and legs – diligent to be extra gentle in the more sensitive areas – with deft certainty.

Skyfire found himself quite mellow and at ease as the time stretched on, his optics offlining as his mind drifted about, nearly slipping into unconsciousness. It was easy to forget where he was – and who he was with – when there was such a pleasant, continuous kneading at his body, scrupulously removing the various bits of remaining grime and dirt.

Until, that is, until irreverent fingers tapped on his chest, drawing him forcibly out of his reverie. "Go to your alternate mode."

The shuttle looked down, mouth drawing into a baffled line at the demand. "What?"

"I can't properly get into some areas. It will be easier if you are in your shuttle mode." He clarified, tilting back his head to stare Skyfire defiantly in the face, daring the shuttle to question his logic. When the larger mechanism remained motionless – and still quite bipedal – he sighed expressively.

"I'll even polish you if you do," He bribed, waving the rag like some sort of flag.

Granting him a wan smile, Skyfire settled into his alternate mode, stretching stiffened cables and joints that had locked from standing for so long.

Starscream waited for him to fully transform, then ran a finger down his side. "Hrm. Not terribly bad. Clean, for the most part." He strode around the shuttle, inspecting his handiwork. At one point, near Skyfire's midsection, he leaned in close, heavily scrutinizing an old burn mark. After chafing at it for a moment or two, he gave it up as a lost cause, continuing his leisurely stroll to end up before Skyfire's nosecone, grinning affably as he came to a stop.

"This could take a while. I suggest you get comfortable."

Exaggeratedly, Skyfire wriggled on his axis. "This is about as comfortable as I'm going to get."

"Suit yourself," Starscream whirled away, past Skyfire's limited visual range, but not beyond his scanners' – which, for the most part, took the place of optics whilst in his alternate mode. The jet liberally coated a rag in polish, whilst speculatively eyeing the shuttle's dull – if clean – exterior.

Making his decision quickly, the jet strode confidently to Skyfire's side, more at ease with the mechanism's body.

Skyfire almost purred at the feel of cool polish against his plating, rolling his body as much into the motions as possible. Once more, he allowed his mind to drift in and out of the present, comfortable enough with Starscream's methods to trust him.

Sudden, shocking sensation rocketed through him, abruptly, jerking him forcibly out of a near-recharge.

Beyond startled, all his long-range sensors and relays were primed on high alert, thinking some threat had moved upon him. But he could only rouse an awareness of the round room and Starscream and—

The feeling tore through him again, effectively severing the trail of thought.

"W-w-what are you doing?" He gasped, forcing himself to not shudder as the aftershocks rippled up and down his relay system.

Quite innocently – too innocently – Starscream looked up from where he was scrubbing away at the sensor-ridden nosecone. "There's a stubborn stain here. Hold on a moment."

Skyfire meant to say 'wait', to allow him a moment to dampen his sensor arrays, but Starscream was already working on the spot, unknowing of what effects he was wreaking. The scintillating feelings trickled out from the motion, gaining power as it shot out throughout his body, wracking it with involuntary spasms. He rocked gently, unable to thrash as he wanted to – unable to think and remember how to transform and, oh, Primus, he had to know what he was doing to him, he couldn't just be doing that on accident, and – slag him – it felt so very good

"Hold still," The jet chided, allegedly ignorant of what he had started. "It's almost out."

Skyfire tried to activate his vocalizer, desperate to escape the sudden pleasure that was running amuck through his senses, destroying any and all rational thought it happened upon. However, just as he gained enough fortitude to actually manage it, the pressure and speed of the buffing increased, sending him spiraling in a white screen of euphoria.

All endeavors for escape were lost as his frame went stiff, the rapture intensifying as it was volleyed back and forth down his body. Waves of stimulation, built one layer up upon the next, enterprised to send him over, unable to dampen the sensors, to shut off the sensation at all. A groan clawed for release, some indication of the throbbing agony-ecstasy he was experiencing, but the blasted thing would not activate no matter what he—

Oh, too much, too much!

A pause – thank the stars – as the jet rocked back, seemingly done, just enough to gather some semblance of thought together, enough to grasp futilely at higher cognitive functions past the bliss and—

"Whoops, missed a spot." The hint of a wicked smirk, maybe, but it was so hard to focus.

Nnnggahhh!

The moment before overload hit him, he gathered his frayed and tattered will, transformed, and shoved Starscream away, hard, before huddling in upon himself, rocking back and forth as he fought the urge to scream out.

A few moments, letting himself reboot, hastily shutting down the relay system as his still-trembling arms hugged around himself, holding the shuddering moan pressing upon his vocalizer.

At last able to gather and compose himself, he gradually eased himself out of his tight hunch, an unsteady breath rattling free. With excruciating slowness he looked up, quivering with the aftershock of an unexpected overload.

Starscream lay sprawled back where he had landed, half on his elbows, legs askew, staring with wide optics at the larger mechanism. For a few, tense moments, they stared each other down, the silence absolute.

Then: "Sensitive area?"

Skyfire gaped at the irreverent smirk, the cocky nonchalance writ large upon the smaller jet's face, then laughed, the sound high and strained. His head clunked forward, chin striking his chest. "Y-yes."

The grin faded slightly, Starscream's optics dimming. "Are… are you alright?"

"I'm… fine." Skyfire informed the floor, desperately hoping that the jet had just mistaken the… escapade… as a display of pain rather than what it had been. For all intents and purposes, Starscream didn't appear to realize what had transpired.

Though that innocent face had seemed a little too innocuous.

"Oh. Good." Starscream nodded, sitting up fully. He glanced down at the rag in his hands, frowning slightly at it. "That stain didn't come out all the way."

Skyfire made a strangled noise in the back of his throat, his head jerking up so quickly a cable nearly broke. "I – I think we're done."

"Oh," The jet said, looking vaguely disappointed. He fiddled with the bit of cloth, folding it unevenly before letting it unfurl again.

"I had better clean up," Skyfire offered, feeling safe enough to dare attempt rising. With only a mild sense of disorientation, he braced himself upright, determined to keep his feet under him despite how the world wanted to tilt.

Starscream frowned up at him, expectantly, before sighing and hauling himself to his own feet. "Reports," He explicated with an apologetic shrug. Sidling around the larger mechanism, he made a line for the door, glancing back only once as he rounded the corner.

Skyfire waited until he was certain the jet was well and truly gone, then slumped back to the floor, staring dumbly at his pristine hands.

That, he decided, staring down at the glimmer of fresh polish, is the last time I ever get a wash from Starscream.

Half a moment later, however, he retracted the declaration.

After all… someone had to get his back.