This plot bunny bit and wouldn't let go. Set right at the beginning of the war.


That is not energon.

It repeated through Soundwave's processor from the moment he had left the battlefield through the entirety of his trek through the Nemesis to the Decepticon Commander's personal quarters. He had instructed his symbiants to disintegrate the trail of leaked fluid before dispersing to keep covert watch of the corridors, ready to alert him if anyone approached.

Soundwave, loyal servant to his Lord Megatron since long before this strange period, entered the dark quarters with his own access code. No other living spark possessed such a privilege. Once the door had sealed air-tight behind him, he said aloud what had been a mental refrain for many minutes.

Leaning heavily against the berth, Megatron growled something like a laugh and bore his weight into the thin foam over the metal plate. He'd never indulged in such comforts on his ship before, but recently such small things had been required. Soon to be over though, he affirmed with a grimaced smile. "No – the idiot Prime finally launched a competent attack and pierced the gestation chamber."

The heavier mech approach slowly and comparatively silently for his size, optics bright with undisguised scans. From a jagged tear in the left side of the silver chassis, a thin but steady trickle of darkly shimmering fluid leaked and dripped through his parts. It was also emerging on the other side, independent of any obvious wound.

"The chamber is not damaged," Soundwave announced after a moment, hesitating with the proper servility before lowering onto one knee and bringing his fingers to the wound. The contact permitted the deepest level of scan possible, and he checked with the cassettes that there was no one nearby. Finally, he withdrew his hands without lifting his optics. "It is time. The newspark is birthing."

Megatron's stare was almost a tangible heat against his visor as he glared down, appearing suddenly more furious than in pain. Something deep in his chassis moved with a dull click and his expression flickered, head bowing and claws tightening into a fist atop the berth. When he spoke, it was spat through gritted dentals. "Finally, I can be rid of this parasite."

Soundwave did not react, waiting still and silent for further instruction. More sounds of foreign and unnatural transformation as the interlacing parts between the new gestation chamber and the outside world ground about. The All Spark would have been wise to mimic a femme's carriage in this regard, but then Megatron would not have tolerated it so well if it had distended his body to that kind of degree. Buried within his chassis, the distortion from the added mass had been mere inches.

After confirming that he couldn't induce a termination without lethally poisoning himself, Megatron's priority had been secrecy – and it was easy to hide. In the history of Cybertron, the All Spark had never done such a thing to a mech through simple, glancing contact. At the time it had looked like the Cube had simply electrocuted him as he tried to take it from its pedestal, throwing him smoking to the floor just as the Autobots arrived to whisk the artefact away to safety. However, he'd felt that something was different the moment he came back online.

Megatron summoned the communications officer when he'd realized that there was a second, albeit inferior spark residing within his frame, assuming it to be animated parts transformed into a droid or a symbiant. The All Spark bestowed life onto the lifeless, and it was a reasonable assumption to believe that it had given a spark to components connected to a body that already had one. There were advantages to it, certainly. Roller, Prime's independent physical extension, had caused more than one difficulty in the past.

Soundwave had destroyed that illusion within seconds, outlining from his limited knowledge on spark bearing that it was a new sparkling that had come into being, due in approximately three diuns. The eve of this battle, in fact. Right on time, Megatron thought with a suppressed groan. A broad hand brushed the energy field across his back but didn't quite make contact, hovering instead.

"My Lord, this is beyond my medical skills," Soundwave advised, his hands still hovering uncertainly. A shadow of concern backed the words, typically flat as they were.

"Good," Megatron snarled, curling in on himself despite his best efforts to remain upright and strong. "Let it gutter and die."

The wound was flowing thicker now, regaining itself in tracks down his leg to begin pooling on the floor. It wasn't a significant amount, but Soundwave was aware of the 'yet' and that it was still early in the delivery. "Perhaps, it would be best if you saw-"

"No!" The word was hurled back with disgusted rage, as if sickened that Soundwave could even entertain the thought of involving anyone else. Regaining himself, Megatron bent his arm to brace his elbow on the berth and spoke to his fist. "I've worked too hard to keep anyone from knowing about this… aberration, and I will not undo that now."

Starscream had been his primary concern from the beginning. The Seeker would laugh long and hard at first, but then find some way to use his 'condition' against him. Starscream was a genius but utterly incompetent in using his intellect, making him unpredictable. At the very least, if he'd found out that the Decepticon Commander was sparked, he would spread every vicious rumour and theory as to how he came to be so and undermine him amongst his soldiers. The war was still in its infancy, he'd determined, and precedents had to be set.

Megatron was not so foolish as to believe that he could manage this entirely alone, however. He'd kept Soundwave a little closer after the communications officer had been the one to diagnose his 'condition', and the one to ease the worst of symptoms to better disguise it. Watching his most obedient servant knelt before him, a fresh lance of pain tore through his systems and he let himself brace a hand against his chassis. "Serve your master, Soundwave: Get this out of me. It doesn't matter what state it's in so long as I am alive afterwards."

A millisecond of processor time before Soundwave nodded once and firmly, rising to his feet with offering hands. He performed all maintenance and repairs on his symbiants and so had some medical proficiency, but spark birthing was an entirely different pallet of oil. Best to take this slowly, he decided, in small and sequential steps. "Are you able to climb atop the berth, my Lord?"

Megatron considered the height against the cramping pains in his chassis, finally bringing his other hand against the edge and lifting a knee towards the berth. Immediately the pain intensified to unparalleled heights, turning his optics briefly white and dragging a low shout from between his dentals. He gave up immediately and sank to the floor instead, his voice a hiss. "Not on the berth. There'll be no ceremony to this. Here, on the floor."

Soundwave's hands followed, making contact now that he had explicit permission and guiding the overheating mech to lie back. Lying flat quickly proved agonising, and Megatron twisted his body in search of some respite. He finally ended up partially sitting with his shoulders resting back against the base of the berth, claws making shallow marks in the deck plates as he wrestled down the outward signs of pain.

Once the mech had settled, Soundwave knelt close and began to lift away the thick battle armour as it unlatched for him. He set the monstrous cannon up atop the berth where it would be out of the way, rending the other evermore vulnerable with every plate he set aside. Silence was a part of sound and did not bother him, but he suspected that Megatron might benefit from a verbal distraction. "Have you familiarised yourself with the process?"

Serrated teeth bared in a silent snarl, Megatron tipped his helm back against the berth and shuttered his optics. Regulating his vents wasn't helping any more than 'moving with it'. "Unenlightening then and fragging lies now." Another wrenching sound – something large crushing back against his backstrut and forcing the sparkling forward. He thumped the floor hard enough to fracture a finger, features a rictus of bright agony. "By the Unmaker…"

Soundwave didn't know who took whose hand, only that he had raised his and suddenly found Megatron's claws interlaced with his fingers. If was a warrior's grip, tight and stiff, but it had the same effect as if it were a lover's: providing grounding and support. It brought Megatron back to this room, bloody optics opening to slits and meeting the unseen but penetrating gaze that came through the visor. Soundwave flexed his fingers in a brief squeeze. "I can get a neural suppressor."

Megatron shook his head in the same motion as he looked away, one knee drawing up against the building pressure and his free hand pressing against the side of his chassis. His injuries from the battle itself were insignificant, and it was only through touching them that he remembered their presence through the agonized fog spilling from his core. "No, Soundwave," he bit back at last. "I want this to hurt, just as having any damaged or diseased part extracted would."

There was nothing to say to that so Soundwave simply droned a low note of understanding, releasing the clawed hand to inspect the leaking chassis with careful digits. The energon mix that was escaping now was not as thin as it had been, viscous with deactivated nanites, mineral compounds and clotted energon suggesting of a more dangerous kind of bleed behind the breaking of the gestation chamber. He coaxed the last plates between the silver outer armour and the new chamber apart, fingers vanishing in a thick swell of energon and soft components.

Megatron did not watch him work, his throat exposed as he strained against the sensation of something, something enormous, clawing its way out and leaving bands of white in its wake. His processor flashed a new warning, adding to the cacophony that he'd partitioned aside since the pains had started in battle. "If I do offline, don't let Starscream take command," he murmured, meeting the mech's stare when the hands tending him froze. "Assassinate him before his inevitable self-appointed coronation. At it, preferably."

A beat before Soundwave bowed his head and returned to his work, offering the motion of a nod if that was how Megatron wished to take it. It had seemed implied that the Commander wished him to take charge in the event that this ill planned procedure killed him, but they both knew that he could not lead. He could only serve, and only those with the strength and vision to warrant it. Casting the thought aside, he brushed the torn wall of the gestation chamber aside.

The bot was curled foetal, stiller than Soundwave had expected it to be after all its activity over the last orn. He had expected a twisting demon of a sparkling from how it had made his Lord suffer in silence, but now on the cusp of life it lay as if in recharge. Forcing his thick fingers around the body, he tried and failed to lift it out in time with the next contraction, ignoring the bellow it instigated.

"The umbilical lines are still attached," he reported with a grimace, adjusting his position in the puddle, not daring to look up. He had scrutinised the documentation on spark bearing and emergence, and had been running mental simulations of this day for quintuns.

A long, barely-suppressed groan preceded a response. "Take them out," Megatron growled, the heel of his left pede gouging at the floor as he shook and strained. One hand had wrapped about Soundwave's wrist above his chassis hard enough to dent, fighting to keep still. "Take it all out."

Now Soundwave did look up, optics wide behind the visor. At an earlier point in his life he would have been thankful for the cover disguising his expression. He hadn't truly expected that Megatron would keep the modification, particularly as he'd been so keen to terminate the sparkling at its inception, but something like this bestowed by the All Spark had to have some meaning. Had to be a gift, at least of a sort.

"You do not wish to retain the… ability?"

Megatron found the thought distracting enough to laugh outright, arching with a fresh spasm and wrench of his parts as the sparkling moved slowly, so slowly out of him. "This has all been a sick joke from Primus, and I'll be slagged before I do it again."

Soundwave cleared the barrage of querying data from his processor seconds after it arose, bowing his helm and pressing his fingers more insistently into the space. It would be easier to not have to worry about damaging the gestation chamber, he conceded, and as the soft-part assembly had been grafted onto an already complete frame there was no real danger in simply pulling it out and soldering the connective tears shut.

He finally did so without ceremony, enhancing the dampening field he'd been emitting since entering to swallow up the roaring howl it brought about. Megatron's optics flickered white, blind with pain, and his body jerked with convulsions as the slippery knot of sparkling and gestation chamber was torn out. Opening the cassette hatch on his own chassis, Soundwave cradled the now-wailing sparkling with the shattered remains of the chamber to free his hands and guide the other mech flat, beginning to solder the cavernous space left behind.

Megatron fell into stasis lock when the hot metal singed the fluid from the first connective port, lying still and silent as Soundwave burned and melted every space where the chamber had been attached. As he worked, he checked carefully for residual debris that the All Spark may have imbued with regenerative properties. If the gestation chamber grew back, there would be no way to measure the Decepticon Lord's wrath. When he was finally satisfied with the condition of his master, he brought out the sparkling in both hands and began cleaning off the umbilical lines and ropes of fluid clinging to it.

Its small optics flashed vermillion as its vocals swelled into another long series of wails, delicately forged hands reaching for something, someone who was not Soundwave. The old mech circled his thumbs over its abdominal plating as he had done before for his cassettes when they were in deep distress, sighing when it had no effect.

:: How's it going, Boss?::

Frenzy's voice across the comm. was cautious, and it was obvious that amongst the symbiants he'd been the one to draw the short straw. They'd known of Megatron's being sparked hours after he did, and been left with no illusion as to how imperative it was that that information was contained. Soundwave had been surprised at how willingly they'd all agreed and the interest they took, fascinated and somehow humbled by the knowledge of a carrying bot in their midst. The experience had had no such effect on Megatron himself, but for the cassettes who had never seen a carriage before it was an experience they felt privileged to even peripherally be involved with.

Soundwave gave up on trying to quiet the newspark for the time being, using a spray of heavily diluted lubricant to cleanse off the majority of the viscera and keep the twisting body from scratching itself in his hands. :: The sparkling is delivered healthy. Lord Megatron is temporarily offline.::

A pause, then, :: Can we hear it?::

The symbiants did not often make requests of him, and the pitch of Frenzy's voice was so alien that Soundwave found he could no more deny him than shoot Megatron where he lay.

Frenzy listened to the sparkling's stuttered wails on the shared comm. for almost a minute before making a soft sound. ::Scraplet needs a lullaby by the sounds of it. Doubt old Megatron is going to take kindly to a screaming brat, even if it is his.::

:: Astute point:: Soundwave commented, already searching through his databanks for a series of harmonics that could work to regulate and thus soothe the sparkling's systems. It took several minutes of experimenting with short, quiet blasts of sound before he struck upon a high resonance with a lilting rhythm that silenced the newspark. Its optics were narrowed and weary when a hardware alarm began sounding from the leaking chassis beside him. Placing the dozing sparkling back inside his own hatch, Soundwave began to plug diagnostic and regulating lines into the Decepticon's exposed ports. ::Frenzy, retrieve a field kit and extra patches and bring them here.::

::Will do, Boss:: came the immediate reply. ::Ratbat's keeping an optic on Starscream ready to run interference. Other than that you're all clear.::

Soundwave sent a short click by way of a response before closing the channel, focussed entirely on teasing apart the internal components of Megatron's chassis that were trying to close over a more substantial problem. A hardline connection to the base of his spark chamber that he hadn't seen before, leaking gold now and crackling. He had stemmed the flow by physically plugging the breach with one hand by the time Frenzy arrived, jogging in with a 'kit almost as large as him in both arms.

The cassette skidded to a halt at Megatron's side, almost stumbling over his splayed arm, and ran bright optics over the unconscious form as Soundwave took the kit from him. He took a few steps back to better peer into the partially open chamber cradling the new spark as the mech lent over to begin patching the tear. "Wow. Didn't thinking something like that could come out of something like…"

He cleared his vocal processor with a burst of static at the flickered look Soundwave cast him, letting the sentence trail off. Several minutes passed in strange silence until the large bot was satisfied and withdrew his hands, sending a charge through one of the connective lines to trigger the soaked chassis to close. When Soundwave sat back with a harsh exhale through his vents, Frenzy came to stand at his hip. "What're you going to do with it?"

Soundwave paused before lifting the small being out from his hatch with both hands, and sat considering it with the same seriousness as he would afford to hacking an Auotbot communication or disseminating battle orders. The little mech, its plates a shiny silver from where the film of lubricant covered it, squirmed and began to chirp softly. He silenced it with a burst of the same cadence as before, cocking his head when the sparkling hummed into recharge.

Frenzy looked between the sparkling and Megatron, mouth twisting into a grimace. "He's gonna kill it, isn't it? I mean, he wanted to all along, but now he's going to actually do it."

Seeing no need to confirm that statement, Soundwave merely looked to the mech and asked, "Why does it afford your concern?"

Frenzy shifted with averted optics, suddenly awkward before he folded his arms and stared boldly back. "It ain't right. Killing Autobot scum is one thing, but I didn't sign up for killing newsparks – and not 'Con ones, at that."

"Megatron will not allow it to exist on the Nemesis," Soundwave replied evenly, as if encouraging the cassette to work through the problem.

"No," Frenzy groused, rolling his optics before he caught himself. "But that don't mean the kid's gotta die. I mean, no one knew he was carrying even when it was really fraggin' obvious, and no one has to know that there's a sparkling now." He drummed his fingers, hesitating before offering softly, "We could hide it."

Soundwave jerked his head instantly to dispel the notion before Frenzy could become enamoured to it. "Negative. The sparkling will require energon and maintenance, which would be discovered. It could not be hidden."

Frenzy rubbed a hand across the back of his neck, squinting at Megatron's profile in thoughtful silence before snapping his gaze back. "We could send it away," he asserted, the statement carrying him a step closer. "Pit, you could tell 'im that you killed it and just send it back to that planet we just toasted. The Autobots will be crawling all over it for orns looking for survivors – they're bound to find a sparkling."

A considering drone as Soundwave analysed that possibility, the sound accompanied by a softly lyrical note when the sparkling squirmed again. Without comment, he extended a slender energon line from his wrist and guided it to the sparklings mouth. As he'd expected, it latched immediately and began to refuel. They were both silent, watching.

"Lord Megatron will come back online without warning," Soundwave warned at last, breaking the silence.

"Gotchya, Boss. Was never here and didn't know nothing anyway," Frenzy replied as he repackaged the repair kit, optics lingering on the sparkling. "We'll, uh, keep quiet unless something comes up."

Soundwave nodded in approval as much as dismissal, readjusting his position to lay the sparkling between his chassis and the crook of his arm. Locking the limb into place, he ran another scan over Megatron's form. There was nothing to do now but wait.

Megatron's systems finished rebooting with a series of hard whines and sharp clicks as components tested themselves. There was an ache occupying almost the entirety of his chassis but the pressure was gone, and with a groan through his vents he realized that the sparkling was out and he was still alive.

Soundwave was still close and remained in place when he spoke. "It's a -"

"I don't care." Optics onlining to thin slithers of light, Megatron stared at the shadowed ceiling for long moments before turning to regard his second in command. The mech was even more unreadable than usual, rigidly motionless as he held the sparkling in the curve of one arm.

"Give it here," he commanded in a blunt rasp, his vocals hot and raw as he forced himself upright. When there was no response, his features twisted and he extended a curled hand. "Now, Soundwave."

There was no illusion as to what Megatron would do to the sparkling once it was in his hand. Indeed, Soundwave had been aware and perfectly indifferent to it since before it had had Megatron purging hourly and suffering power disruptions. The Decepticon hated the being that grew inside him from its conception, regardless of the fact that it was unheard of for the All Spark to behave in this way. Holding the tiny mech now, though, and after speaking to Frenzy, Soundwave found himself captured by a degree of reluctance he'd not known before. The All Spark would not do something such as this without reason, no matter how much of a folly; how much it was beyond their understanding.

"It does not need to be offlined."

Megatron was silent for long seconds, obviously stunned by Soundwave's refusal. Where he would rage at instances of insubordination and force compliance, now he felt too wearied and drained to even raise his voice. And there was something unsettling about how the seemingly emotionless mech held that sparkling, watched it and indeed connected with it via a fuel line that was no longer being used. He motioned with his hand again, optics narrowed. "It cannot be on the Nemesis. The Decepticons cannot know of it. Give it to me."

Soundwave shifted his helm marginally, the greatest sign of hesitance that Megatron had ever seen from the mech, before rising to one knee. "You require further recharge. I will do it."

The loyalist followers couldn't lie for scrap, Megatron knew, and it sent an uncomfortable chill through his spark that his second was trying to now. He knew the mech couldn't say the outright lie, but it was obvious that he was intent on keeping the sparkling out of his hands and, thus, alive. "Are you defying me, Soundwave?" he asked softly, daring him to see this gambit through.

Silence, and it seemed that even Soundwave's systems had brought all dampeners to bear so as not to give any auditory sign away. The stalemate lasted until Megatron dragged himself to his feet with a growl, climbing onto the berth and easing onto his back with gritted dentals. "Fine. Take it. Do with it what you will."

Soundwave did not linger and risk a countermanding order, rising smoothly and moving towards the door. He paused before its sensor threshold. "How is the pain?"

Megatron arched an optical brow at the words delivered without any colouring of concern. "Bearable," he finally admitted, optics fixed on a single point on the ceiling as he heard the door open. "Soundwave."

"Yes, my Lord?"

A beat, then: "Do not ever tell me."

"Yes, Lord Megatron."

This was the worst battle they had seen and the first resounding victory for the Autobots – both facts that chilled Optimus Prime's spark as he stood on a rise that used to be a communications tower and surveyed the dead. They had been woefully unprepared for this attack, having never entertained the notion that Megatron might attack a civilian colony for its tactical worth. What useful resources there had been had been obliterated in the chaos of the battle, and the Decepticons had abandoned it as worthless and left them to pick up the pieces.

Prime shuttered his optics and gritted his dentals against his own naïve foolishness. Never again, he vowed to himself.

The energon-scorched mech was broken from his reverie by Ratchet's shout, sliding down the warped metal in one leap to jog to the medic's position. The pale mech was crouched in the doorway of a structure that had almost successful withstood the fight, his body curled around something small.

"What is it?"

Ratchet looked up without rising, optics bright with surprise as he watched the Prime's gaze shift to the sparkling in his hands with a gasp. Red optics were narrowed with complaint as the small body twitched, hands raised in fists and low churrs falling from its vocaliser. Prime knelt and laid a hand across the body, marvelling at the feeling of its living warmth.

"He's joors old, Prime," Ratchet informed softly, his tone grieved. "'Cons must have killed the carrier during the battle before the umbilical lines were dry."

"Then Primus intended for him to come with us," Prime assessed with softening optics, tipping his head when one blunt finger was grasped in both small hands. He chuckled without meaning to, despite the carnage around them, and smiled behind the mask when the sparkling chirped a laugh. Following a hunch, he emitted a short series of nonsensical sounds, optics brightening when the sparkling wriggled and chattered with delight. "He shall need a name."

Ratchet made a low sound, swallowing the protests about taking a sparkling into their unit from the look on the younger mech's features alone. The kid could always be upgraded into a small and easily manageable frame, and it wasn't like the orphanage was still standing to hand the sparkling over to.

"Well, he seems to like music."

Thanks for reading - a review would be fab. :)