Disclaimer: I don't own them. Otherwise I would try to make money with this.
Usual caveats: I'm German. Please bother to correct me if you find any mistakes.
Summary: A one-night-stand with the enemy might be excusable. Having regular meetings with this enemy is cause for concern. Having said enemy sit in your brig… that is when complicated becomes an understatement.
The inspiration to try my hand at this particular pairing lies with Abyssal's 'The world's translated thus' and wyvern girl's 'What no one understands'. Add to that a slight funk I needed to get out of, and you have Milady committing G1 Starscream/Optimus Prime slash.
I have a weakness for bad guy/good guy, as well as for this particular set up, as my Star Wars fics should demonstrate.
If you don't like the idea of slash, go read something else.
Title is a line from 'under the gun' by the Sisters Of Mercy.
EDIT 08/29/08: a belated correction due to Seien's comment on communism.
RulerTwo worlds apart, two together
"It was just a lucky shot," Bluestreak had protested bashfully, as everyone had congratulated him.
Lucky or not, the missile had put a jagged round hole into Starscream's left wing, and the subsequent crash had dented him nicely. Even with the fight his two wingmates had put up, it had been relatively easy to collect the unconscious mech and put him into the brig.
Mere luck that some training exercise or other had put the Seekers in the path of an Autobot party, driving back from some public relations stint in Seattle. Mere luck that Bluestreak had been part of it – knowing how much the gunner actually hated to be quiet and smile politely while being stared at, Prowl tended to use it as punishment detail, just like he would afford Sunstreaker a job that got him dirty and Sideswipe patrols with a minibot.
And so the Decepticon Air Commander was an unwelcome and most reluctant guest in the Ark.
"So… now what?" Jazz asked the assembled officers.
Predictably, they all stared at Optimus Prime then.
Prime looked at his hands, folded on the table. "We will need to interrogate him."
Ironhide harrumphed. "He won't tell us anything, and you know it."
"And you know that torture is out of the question," Prime said. The argument was like a ritual dance, repeated every time they had a prisoner.
"He's their second in command, Prime. Bit more than the average 'con to practice mind games on. I say we jack and read him."
"No, we won't. We can't stoop to that level." No one deserved to have their systems invaded like that. Prime stared at the wall. "If Megatron makes an offer to free him, we will refuse. He… Seekers hate to be locked up. He will talk eventually."
Jazz nodded along – he had to know that – and Prowl gave Prime an appraising look. The rest seemed to be content to take everything at face value, not questioning the near-slip or where the information came from.
With a few more orders, Prime made sure Starscream would be fed regularly and checked by a medic once an earth day.
Then, he made the trek to the brig himself, finding Starscream awake, sitting on the berth, knees drawn up, and staring daggers at the wall. He gave Prime one disdainful look before resuming his prior position, lips slightly pursed and optics narrowed. Wary, but not giving away anything else.
So proud and so regal, despite the circumstances. Compared to him, Prime always felt clumsy; the boorish ground-pounder the Decepticons liked to jeer at. What Starscream saw in him, he would never guess.
"I wouldn't have expected for you to come here," Starscream rasped after a while.
Prime kept quiet. He rarely knew what to say to Starscream, and until now, that little had been enough.
"You like to suffer like that," Starscream stated.
"I merely came to check on your health."
"We'll keep you here until further notice," Prime said.
Starscream shot him another glance, face still inscrutable. "No interrogations?"
"We both know you wouldn't talk. You're too used to these things."
Starscream offered a slight nod as confirmation and turned his head to look at the wall once again.
Knowing the conversation was over for today, Prime left.
Where did it start? At first, Prime had just taken notice because the Seeker had risen through the ranks at an unlikely speed, and because he was a formidable enemy and, frankly, the best flier Optimus Prime had ever had the luck, or bad luck, in this case, to watch.
Later, spies brought back news of a brilliant strategist and adept inventor.
Much later still, when things had been at their bleakest, Starscream had had his own part of army to command, like Shockwave.
And then, they had landed on Earth, and everything had changed. Jazz had said, "Megatron's got a few screws loose," after yet another grandiose scheme gone wrong.
During the few months when Megatron had been lost to the Space Bridge, Starscream had proved shockingly good at what he did, namely supplying his troops and Cybertron with stolen energy, and not getting caught.
There'd been a few battles, and the first of those confrontations had been over an oil pipeline in the north, on a wide, cold expanse of yellow grass.
… They were too late, one of the fliers was already making off with some of the energon. The others could have fled any time they wanted; it was clear they'd just finished their job of filling the cubes, yet Starscream didn't sound a retreat, almost as if he wanted his soldiers to let loose a little.
Only a few kliks in, he abandoned his strafing runs and landed on a hillock, overseeing the carnage from a distance, arms akimbo and with pride in his stance.
It just wasn't right. Prime transformed and started towards him, and Starscream watched his approach coolly, not even bothering to shoot, and Prime had the sudden urge to beat the arrogance out of him.
At the last possible moment, Prime transformed, ready to tackle the brat, and Starscream evaded him by lifting into the air, hanging there as if held by invisible forces, just out of Prime's reach. A small smile crept into the dark features, so odd, more well, hell-lo, handsome than you're way out of your league, until a laser shot came streaking out of nowhere, the spell broke and Strarscream was off…
That was where it had begun.
"I wasn't aware your masochistic streak ran quite that wide," Starscream greeted Prime the next day.
And again, Prime was at a loss for words. Starscream was just an arm's length away, and yet it seemed that nothing would ever reach him. Nothing could ever save him, much less make him want him to be saved. "I just wanted to see if you're ready to talk yet."
"Not in this lifetime."
Prime nodded. "We would make allowances if you offered information."
"A favor for a favor?" Starscream tilted his head and came sauntering towards the bars. "What if I offered favors of another kind?"
So close. Prime took a step backwards. "Don't be crass."
"It's what you want, isn't it?"
Maybe. But rather not. "I don't want favors, or… business deals."
"You're far too sentimental," Starscream stated, retreated to the berth, and proceeded to ignore Prime.
Things had turned from vaguely puzzling to complicated when the Decepticons had raided an oil refinery so close to the Ark that it couldn't be anything else but a taunt.
… Prime would never be able to fathom why he'd decided to tackle Starscream like he did, just jumping up, actually getting a hold of something, hanging onto it even as Starscream tried to transform and shake him off, and managing to drag the jet to the ground. Rocks dug into Prime's back, leaving burning streaks of pain as they landed.
Starscream struggled to get free, and it was the first time that Prime realized the Seeker really wasn't a match for him when it came to hand-to-hand combat. He helped the struggle along, punching and kicking until he had Starscream on his back.
He was actually shorter than Prime, and his maneuverability on the ground was pitiful, much like an insect when it landed on its back.
And yet Starscream had that odd look again, and he wriggled under Prime's straddle ever so slightly, sinuously, like some almost forgotten memory from the time when Prime hadn't been Prime yet.
"Prime…," the Seeker whispered hoarsely.
And Prime leaned in closer.
"Meet me here tonight."
"You heard me." And just to spite these words, his face came rushing towards Prime's and his helm impacted the battlemask, hard, and it hurt.
Prime jerked back, and Starscream did his own kicking and kneeing and punching to get Prime off…
He'd spent an uneasy day, then, as he did now, and in the night, Starscream's suggestion came back to haunt Prime.
Favors of a different kind. Role reversal of their first conversation ever.
After being tackled, having his mask nearly ripped off before retracting it and being very thoroughly kissed. After discovering that wings were incredibly sensitive, after eliciting all those delightful little sounds from Starscream. After his first not self-induced overload as Prime, he'd asked, "why?"
… Starscream opened his eyes, looking down on him from two vermilion crescents. "I've wanted to do this for a while now," he said, as if that were a reason.
"So, why now?" he rephrased his question.
"You can't possibly be that stupid."
With Megatron out of the game… granted. It was an answer. But things still didn't make sense. "Why not capture me?"
"It would totally defy the purpose." Starscream wriggled a little, making himself more comfortable, sprawling on Prime. "They'd want me to kill you. When we've got Cybertron under control and can leave you Autobots here to rot, then, maybe."
Prime should have known better than to expect things to make sense. Instead, he watched the sky and the stars twinkling down at him.
After a few breems, Starscream began his wriggling again, and Prime watched him straddle his hips.
He blinked, very slowly, because he really wasn't up to another round yet.
"Sorry to disappoint," Starscream said, with a lazy smile. "Same time next earth month?"…
Same time next earth month. For a few of those earth years, now.
Sometimes those meetings had fallen flat, when both sides were recovering from a battle, or when Starscream had managed to anger Megatron so much he was beaten within an inch of his life.
Talk of returning to Cybertron victorious had abated over those years, while rants on Megatron's incompetence had been getting more frequent.
And now their precarious balance had tipped, and Prime was laying awake in the dark and yearning for the mech in a cell a short walk away, his thoughts a planet, always circling around the same star.
It had never been that bad before, had merely been a cause for growing excitement over the course of a month, sometimes turning to anxiety whenever the Decepticons had lost and Megatron was likely to blame the debacle on Starscream. Knowing that Starscream didn't care, and making himself not care in return.
It was his most uneasy night after that other night, after their first meeting.
"It's not like we have anything to talk about," Starscream complained at Prime's next visit.
Didn't they? Sometimes it felt like all those things unspoken between them were a load the size of Cybertron on Prime's shoulders. "I wish we had."
Starscream glowered at him from the back wall of the cell. "In case it escaped your notice, you're not supposed to talk to me, you're supposed to make me talk."
Prime felt a very small smile tug at his lips. So typical. "That's what we're doing."
Tilting his head, Starscream contemplated that. "Ah. Of course." He straightened. "You're not above cruelty."
"Would you rather I let Ratchet read you?"
"No." Starscream turned his head and looked down to the berth. "We can't have that."
It made Prime's fuel tank give a small pang – 'we', he'd said. It was the first time either of them acknowledged that their… thing was making them a unit of sorts. "I know how much you like to be in control."
"Don't give this an altruistic spin. You know it's not the reason."
"It would be."
Starscream huffed and crossed his arms. "No, it wouldn't."
"Knowing what I know about you? Yes, it would."
"That only proves that you know me far too well."
"I wish I knew you better." It was out of Prime's vocaliser before he could stop it. His hand jerked, but it was too late, it couldn't be caught and taken back anymore.
Starscream narrowed his eyes. "That approach won't work on me."
"Starscream…," but he had no idea for what he was pleading.
"Don't. Just don't." Starscream's optics burned nearly orange with hate, so unlike any other look he'd ever gotten from his volatile flier, and Prime couldn't bear it. He walked off, mooching along but never registering where he was going. Just away from the brig.
Stupid, stupid. Stupid to assume that Starscream would see anything but a ploy in everything Prime did. But he'd blurted out his growing attachment, an attachment that was wrong on so many levels, and he'd gotten it thrown back into his face. It was nothing less than he deserved, but it still ached.
His vow not to care had obviously been as ineffectual as a vow not to think about pink elephants, and to realize that only when he felt like the floor had been yanked from under him… and they'd taken his spark and his fuel tanks right along with it.
He was feeling empty, meandering through the Ark without aim, and no smiling face and no friendly chatter could fill that gaping hole Starscream's rejection had left.
The night was, again, filled with memory.
For the first two… dates after Megatron's return, Starscream had been absent, and Prime had worried, until he saw the Seeker on the battlefield, and he knew that Megatron had not killed him. His feelings had taken an about turn then, and he'd begun to fret that Starscream didn't want him anymore, which was, in a way, worse. He'd turned all possible real or imaginable offenses over and over in his mind, and he'd hated how much he'd come to rely on these meetings.
They were only a month apart, less than three orns, and they were the most regular ongoing interfacing he'd ever gotten, and they kept him sane, somewhat. In the enclosed space of the Ark, there was no time to kick back and not be heroic leader, even for a breem. Only Starscream gave him that freedom to just be for a little while.
… But Starscream couldn't know that. So, when the first roar of jet engines cut the night sky, Prime rolled his shoulders once and assumed a pose of indifference. He relaxed a little as Starscream landed a few steps away, obviously not as keen on getting him horizontal as the other times.
"Hello," he said as the silence and Starscream's odd behavior dragged on. "Are you well?"
Starscream nodded once, jerkily, and finally closed the distance between them.
The kiss offered was slow and shy and searching, somehow, and gave Prime opportunity to reacquaint himself with Starscream's body, so smooth and warm under his hands. Everything was slower than normal that night, and Starscream seemed oddly passive at times.
They lingered, afterwards, Starscream resting on top of Prime as he was wont to do, and he let Prime caress his helm.
"He didn't punish you, did he?", Prime asked, because he had to know.
Starscream made a non-committal noise.
"Yes, or no?"
Starscream expelled air from his vents in an exasperated sigh. "He knocked me around a bit and locked me in for a while." Starscream lifted his head to look at Prime. "I hate being locked up," he spat.
"He's a fool." Starscream had been doing a fantastic job.
"That's what I tell him."
Prime stopped his petting. "It might be better for your health if you didn't."
And that was the extent of their discussion on the topic.
… And how oblivious was Prime to never realize that Starscream seemed extra snuggly after his frequent absences? Seemed almost disbelieving that Prime had bothered to turn up at all.
Prime groaned at the darkness of his quarters. How dense could one mech be?
Starscream was obviously insecure about this… relationship of theirs, and no amount of braggadocio how he would make Prime his pleasure slave in a distant future was able to cover it up. Maybe Starscream did care, more than he liked to admit.
It made an odd sort of sense… if Starscream assumed Prime knew about this, it wasn't too far to jump to the conclusion that Prime might use it for a mind game or another.
What a mess.
"Your tactic might be working," Prowl said and tapped at the screen slightly. It showed Starscream pacing in his cell. "He's been doing that ever since you talked with him yesterday."
Prime frowned. "He didn't recharge." Maybe that was good. Maybe it was bad.
"No. What did you say to him?"
"Nothing much, but he guessed at our tactics."
"And he obviously doesn't like the prospect. You were right."
"Looks like it."
Prowl looked up at him, maybe finding the flippant remark to be off. "You should probably let him stew a few hours more."
"I will," Prime said, when all he wanted was to hurry and hold the frantic being in the brig until it was all better.
But he took Prowl's advice, if only to appear as cool towards the matter as he should be.
Starscream stopped his pacing and leaned against the wall at Prime's approach, face impassive.
"Starscream…," Prime began.
Starscream twitched one optic ridge.
"I never even realized you felt so strongly about… this until yesterday."
"What are you talking about?"
"This. Us. You really need the meetings as much as I do."
Starscream frowned. "How long until you learn I won't fall for this kind of ploy?"
"What do I have to do to make you believe it's not a ploy?"
"Let me go."
"No." The thought filled Prime with some nameless dread. "It wouldn't work, and you know it."
"There's a number of ways to stage an escape, and none would incriminate you."
"I doubt that." The only plot he could think of involved shooting Starscream, and he just couldn't do that. He set his jaw. "And maybe I don't want you to leave."
"That implies I have a choice in the matter."
"You have. You know he's going to punish you when you return, and I think you know you will never make it to Decepticon Commander."
"You're Prime," Starscream snapped, and came a little closer. "You don't know anything about this."
"I never asked to be Prime. None of the Autobots asked to be where they are today."
"You could stop trying to defend an oppressive system that exploits everyone who doesn't have rich creators."
"I believe even Mirage has realized by now that the Golden Age wasn't quite as golden for some as it was for him," Prime said. "We've changed over the vorns. None of us want to go back to corrupt senators and emirates. Cybertron is in desperate need of a better constitution." He paused to let that sink in. "I never quite figured out what you are fighting for?"
Starscream came closer, until he could grip the bars. "Didn't you hear the speeches?"
Memories from the time he had still been Orion Pax. "I did. Megatron said he was fighting for the freedom and glory of Cybertron. Which would be quite the noble goal."
Starscream narrowed his optics to angry red slits.
"However, I came to the conclusion that all of these theatrics were only useful to promote the glory of Megatron."
"That's why I'm trying to get rid of him."
"What are you implying?"
"That you wouldn't know how not to follow his footsteps. How to give up this power you worked so hard to gain. Don't tell me you'd give way to an elected successor."
"Don't tell me you would."
"Actually, the Autobots know a vote of no confidence, and it is entirely possible they'd subject me to it if I helped you escape."
Starscream sneered. "You're holding on to your power just like any Decepticon."
"Don't forget you're talking to a Prime. Right at the moment, there is no one else who could do or would want my job, so that means I'll have to keep it for a while longer."
"Right. No one would want your job."
"I can't think of anyone who does. Everyone's running to me about everything. I don't have hours off, much less days, or vacations. They expect me to be there for them, and I owe it to them to do my job as good as I can."
Starscream was quiet for a while. "They really can grate on your circuits after a while," he said slowly.
"They do, yes. Especially if you're determined to be actually helpful." They had reached some kind of understanding, but everything about Starscream said that he needed to think about it. "I'll see you later."
He felt Starscream's optics bore into his back as he left.
"That was a long conversation," Prowl said as Prime settled into the free chair in his office.
"It was. I'm afraid it wasn't very useful, information-wise, but we did discuss philosophy a little. I might actually have made him think. He's not stupid."
"Skyfire said he was a fellow scientist. Chemistry and biology, if I remember correctly. I've always wondered how he could feel drawn to someone like Megatron." Prowl leaned back and looked at Prime, probably hoping for an explanation.
"I'm still not entirely sure. It's obvious he realizes that Megatron wouldn't be good for Cybertron, but he's too caught up in his plotting to realize that he might be better, but not really good, either."
"And you're actually hoping you can reform him in that way?"
Prime shrugged, a gesture he'd copied from Sparkplug. "Wishful thinking, I'm afraid. But I was hoping I could borrow some of your books."
"You've read most of them. I dare say you want the reading material for Starscream?"
"I was thinking about the Communist Manifesto, a Stalin biography and the Archipelago Gulag."
Prowl scrunched up his face for a short moment. "It might be worth a try." He stood up to collect the datapads from a shelf.
"Thank you. I'll tell him you'll slag him if he mistreats these things."
Prowl nodded his thanks curtly. Like any geek he was very particular about his bookfiles.
Delivering the datapads together with the threats, Prime left Starcream to choose if he wanted a peek. He joined Red Alert in the monitoring room for a breem to see that Starscream, probably happy about any kind of distraction from his thinking, had picked up one of the bookfiles and was totally immersed.
There was an ever so small frown on his face, and as always it did go together with a slight pout. It was probably concentration, and it was actually quite cute.
Prime had checked with Red Alert several times, to find that Starscream had recharged, after all, and to find that he'd gone through the bookfiles by the next afternoon. Only then did Prime schedule his visit to the brig.
"Hello, teacher," Starscream greeted him with a sardonic smile. True to form, he didn't bother to get up from the berth, sitting there cross-legged.
"Hello, Starscream." Prime drew up a chair and plopped down on it. "Did you learn anything from your reading?", he played along.
"Apart from the fact that humans are truly pitiful creatures? This one," he held up the Karl Marx, "actually deluded himself into believing humans could be forced out of being greedy, power-hungry, highly evolved apes. And there's still people out there who believe in this slag."
"And those that use it to their own ends."
"There's always those, as you so aptly proved."
"So you see what Megatron is doing?"
"I've seen it for vorns. Don't assume I'm stupid just because I might harbor some tender feelings for you slagheap."
"Thank you." Inside, he was crowing in victory. An admission, finally. "Do you also understand why such an empire can't last?"
"That's the lesson?" Starscream tilted his head. "Whatever. Are you still hoping I might declare myself an Autobot?"
Prime was speechless for a moment.
Starscream's smile grew more grim.
"I… I don't know." An Autobot Starscream? Prime didn't want this regal creature and his quicksilver moods as an subordinate. Not someone to order around, because he had that aplenty. He needed someone who did not see him as a leader, and didn't expect him to be one. Slag it all. Starscream would be able to sense a lie with his optics and scanners off. "I'd probably like to know what it feels like to recharge next to you. What it's like to have you there constantly. What it's like not to worry if Megatron killed you when you don't turn up for a meeting."
"Aww," Starscream said.
"You're the one who can't believe I actually show up after one of your absences," Prime shot back. "Will you stop pretending that you don't care and that we can turn back to status quo once this is over?"
"Will you stop pretending that I'm not a prisoner? We can't kiss and make up and live happily ever after."
"Would you want to?"
This time, he had Starscream floored, mouth hanging open in oh so delightful puzzlement. "It wouldn't work," he finally declared.
"But you would like to try?" Prime pressed on.
Starscream looked away and seemed disinclined to move or speak further.
And so Prime left.
The matter was entirely too confusing. Starscream wanted him, the Prime, was maybe the only one who could ever look him in the optic and not defer to him in some way or another, and wasn't afraid of him, but afraid of leaving his faction or Megatron, and maybe, surely, afraid of admitting to such a weakness as love.
If it was love. Prime wasn't even quite sure what it was on his part. There was the attraction, because, frankly, the only mechs that Prime knew to be more handsome were the twins. And yet, there was something about Starscream that made him actually beautiful. Maybe it was because, sometimes, he managed that wide-eyed look of earnest innocence. It must be the same reason why Prime felt so protective of the Seeker.
Starscream might bristle and unleash his temper on everyone who got into his way, but there had to be a reason why Starscream wanted to keep others at a distance, some hidden vulnerability.
He was smart, blunt, tended to blame others for his shortcomings, was ambitious, unexpectedly tender, knew how to pay attention to details, seemed arrogant, but had actually very little sense of self-worth, could surprise you with his dark humor and would always demand your undivided attention.
Prime felt a sardonic smile to mirror Starscream's creep on his face, thankfully hidden by the faceplate. Really… what was there not to like about Starscream?
He must have fallen for the obnoxious Seeker, somewhere along the line, and the thought didn't fill him with the dread he would have expected. It was clear that Starscream didn't believe it to be enough for something actual, or more permanent… maybe Starscream had no idea how 'permanent' worked, either.
But more than anything, Prime wanted a try.
It made him contemplate, thinking of something so ridiculous and unbelievable that he would have called everyone a hopeless romantic who would have suggested it earlier in the day.
So he went to his office and used his emergency codes to access the security system and make sure he was not going to be disturbed later. Then, he attacked his paperwork, and hoped to appear harmless to visitors.
Only when the Ark had quieted down for the night, he made the trip to the cells again, and locked the blast doors behind him.
"I probably should feel flattered that you can't live without me," Starscream greeted him from his place on the berth.
"Please do. Starscream… can I come in?"
Starscream was off the berth and at the bars in one elegant movement. "This is your prison."
"I know. Still. It's your cell."
"By all means."
Starscream retreated from the bars while Prime keyed the override into the lock and made them lift. But Prime couldn't bring himself to move; it felt wrong, an invasion of sorts to step into that cell with his intentions. Too much like unequal ground. Perhaps Starscream understood, because, with one cautious step, he left the confines of the cell.
They met halfway. Prime retracted his mask and grabbed Starscream for a kiss that was sure to leave scratches on them.
Starscream's hands grappled at his chest for a moment before making their way to his head, resting lightly at the antennae, promising pleasure. Prime ignored it for the time being, roaming Starscream's body, finding the dents from the recent injury, feeling the temporary plating Ratchet had put over the hole in his wing.
Starscream pulled away then.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."
"You didn't. Your medic just shut off most of the receptors in that area. I don't feel much of anything there."
Prime hummed his understanding. He knew how weird that was. "Is it healing?" Ratchet wasn't exactly keen on entering the cell and checking it with more than just long range sensors.
"Yes," Starscream hissed, "can't we talk later?" And then his fingertips ghosted over Prime's antennae, and as always, it made his engine whine for more. He let himself be directed to the berth and pushed down.
It was all he got as foreplay, because once Starscream had arranged himself on top of him, he plugged into him without further ado.
After so much practice, their systems synchronized almost instantly, and Starscream came rushing in, with a lot less grace and a lot more need than usual, plundering his way through the accessible part of Prime's mind, searching, searching, for something.
"Shh." It didn't hurt, but it wasn't exactly nice, either, being used so. No one had ever done this to him, no one had ever needed confirmation that badly. "Let me show you."
Starscream's presence quieted down then, gave him time to lay out a path to all those carefully hidden things and emotions: the desire and the need for closeness, the way Starscream amused, confused, exasperated and challenged Prime all at once, and how much he wanted this to continue. How much he wanted a partner like that.
Starscream basked in that feeling for a very long time, while Prime took to caressing his helm.
"Will you show me now?"
"Do you trust me?" Because if he didn't, it was doomed from the start.
For a moment, Prime feared it had been the wrong question to ask, but then the firewall opened, and he slipped through the gap and followed the way to find Starscream's secrets.
There was the attraction, and it was surprisingly old, dating back to the time before they had left Cybertron. Ensnaring Prime had been a power play and a power trip at first, and then Megatron had returned, and Starscream hadn't expected Prime to be there.
It was an odd, distorted echo of Prime's own thoughts on the matter, but it surprised him how much Starscream needed someone who just wanted him there and didn't want anything else, be it his scientific expertise, a plan, an order, a punching bag or his place in the command chain.
Prime was calm where Megatron was insecure, listened where Megatron shouted, reconsidered his actions where Megatron began dishing out punches. Wasn't above apologizing, was earnest and had a sense of humor that didn't involve belittling someone.
Was probably the best leader anyone could want. Was the best lover Starscream could want, because he understood without having to be told.
Starscream retreated from the connection at Prime's awe, suddenly shy.
"Don't," Prime said, and kissed Starscream.
After a moment, Starscream kissed back, hungrily, and from then on it was a frantic quest for just the right touch in the right place, and with their connection so open, it took an embarrassingly short time to make them overload.
"Wow," Prime said again.
Starscream made an incoherent sound, but the feeling over the connection said it was mutual.
Prime carefully disconnected the cable from his dataport and waited for their systems to reboot.
"I could get used to this," Starscream mumbled eventually.
Not feeling up to anything more than cuddling just yet, Prime let the silence, this wonderful, comfortable silence, stretch on for a while longer.
"We need to get you out before everyone's awake again."
"You heard me. Come on."
He held Starscream's hand while they walked to the entrance, and there, they stood for a while, watching the night sky.
"I know what you'd like me to do," Starscream said.
Prime nodded and knew it wasn't quite that simple.
"Give me some time?"
"Always." He leaned in to give Starscream a peck on his forehead. "Be safe."
And, with a last caress, Starscream was gone, doing an exuberant barrel roll before he vanished from sight.
Prime didn't move, watching the horizon as the sky turned light.
Eventually, Prowl came walking up.
"Sir? Starscream is gone."
"I know." He was gone from the Ark, but from the interfacing, a faint trace of something lingered with Prime's processors, happiness, perhaps, and thoughtfulness.
"You let him out." Prowl sounded very disappointed.
Prowl made a small noise, as if he'd hoped he was wrong.
"Before you decide to arrest me, will you give it time until the next fourth?"
There was a pause.
"Ah," Prowl said then, as if something finally made sense. And maybe it did, because he must have noticed Prime wasn't available on that night of the month years ago.
"I will," Prowl said, and left.
Prime watched as the desert was bathed in the orange light of sunrise.
The date of their meetings had never concerned him until, one year, the newly elected mayor of Portland had invited him to come see the Independence Day fireworks as a honorary guest.
Prime had gone, and taken Ironhide, because there had been no way to get out of this with his dignity intact.
He'd made polite small talk and ooh-ed and ah-ed at the fireworks where it seemed appropriate, and all the time he'd worried about what Starscream would think. And some stupid little romantic part of him had wished to see it together with Starscream.
There was an odd little pang of sadness in his spark at the memory, and a promise of next time around.
Prime shook his head and went about the business of leading the Autobots.
A week passed, and the odd feelings weren't fading, as if something of Starscream had come to stay with him after their last night.
It was grudging respect whenever Prowl was around, giggles and an I should count myself lucky Skywarp only has half his intelligence at a prank from Sideswipe and a blue sky over a blue sea after a situation involving Sunstreaker and a minibot. And it was odd little bouts of insecurity and desperation and serenity hitting him at irregular, and mostly inopportune times, like in meetings with the officers or when he was talking to someone.
It was unsettling, to say the least. They had not sparkbonded after all, so, in order to avoid embarrassment, Prime snuck some datapads from Ratchet's library.
When he was done, he felt like hitting his head on his desk frequently.
Just his luck that he had always assumed from the nomenclature and that his creators had been too prudish to address these matters at all and that he'd been too young and horny to ever read the texts he'd found on this fully and that Alpha Trion had probably assumed he knew about it already and aargh.
Surprise from the part that was Starscream turned into a shriek of rage.
So, evidently, this rather ancient practice the writings called encoding was an unknown to Starscream, too, which was something of a consolation. Not as strong as a proper sparkbond, and breakable, it was an option for cowards, soldiers or friends, since it wasn't reserved for lovers or for one person only.
So, until further notice, Prime was bonded.
Shit happened, as the humans said.
The part that was Starscream went broodingly silent then, and stayed so for another week. Prime made himself go through the motions, and there was no evidence anyone suspected anything.
A few more days passed, and then it was the fourth, and it was as if a fog lifted from his spark, and the part that was Starscream exuded resolve and giddy excitement that made Prime abandon his duties at mid-afternoon and go to the entrance, waiting.
Starscream appeared as a flash of silver before the setting sun, and eventually he just stood there, and they watched each other, neither knowing quite what to say.
The Autobots came storming out after half a breem, weapons ready, slowing down in surprise at the sight, circling the pair of them.
Starscream had gotten rid of the purple Decepticon decals, Prime noticed belatedly.
"I dare say you've come to stay?", Prime asked.
He got a terse nod as an answer.
"Good." He felt the smile spread under his mask. "I'm glad."
A murmur ran along the crowd then, and inside of him, the part that was Starscream writhed in apprehension.
Prime cycled air a few times before he knew what he wanted to say. "Welcome home, then. Autobots, this is my betrothed, Starscream." Slight relief at the lie. "I know most of you have bad memories connected to him, but you will treat him with respect. Do I make myself clear?"
There was a murmur of reluctant 'yessirs', and Prime nodded at that.
Not ready to face the outrage and the questions just yet, and not wanting Starscream to have to witness it, he held out a hand and led Starscream to his – their – quarters, while his Autobots erupted into confused discussion behind them.