Prowl scrutinized the entire scene. His sensor suite took in numbers, positions, states of threat...all that a good tactician would be expected to keep watch over. Eventually, he had to turn his tactical computer off. It kept informing him of how there would be no escape from the clearing without severe casualties, including the Prime. Even with it off, Prowl twitched every time a Decepticon laid hands on Prime. His audial sensors strained to monitor the activities on the dais, alert for any sign of distress.

He heard quite a lot, but even his most powerful analysis algorithms concluded that "distress" was not what the Prime's moans were signaling.

Still, Prowl watched, keeping track of who had been blessed by whom in what order. He tracked where the blessed were, who they had touched, and for how long. The conversion rate seemed to be 100%, as he'd never seen a mech come away from an encounter with a blessed without white optics. It seemed to be proceeding apace as well, with roughly 10% (6% Autobot, 4% Decepticon) of the total audience white-opticked and apparently thoroughly enjoying themselves. The numbers were increasing exponentially, with slight pauses when two blessed would decide to re-bless each other (Ironhide and Ratchet were particular culprits). It was inefficient, but on the bright side, it would usually gather them an audience that was then incredibly eager to partake of the blessing themselves.

The mecha mounting the dais had been no less enthusiastic. Rank and propriety had apparently broken down starting with the twins, and since then there had been a surprisingly orderly line waiting for their turn. Well, 'orderly' if one ignored that many in the line appeared to be unable to wait their turn with the dyad and turned to their fellow linegoers for a bit of relief in the meantime. Skywarp and Smokescreen had gotten so caught up in topping each other that they were eventually left by the wayside as the line continued on without them.

Everything, Prowl dared to think, after checking in with Bluestreak and Red Alert on the defensive perimeter, was going well.

He'd just eased back on his observation when he detected an approaching Decepticon. A deliberately approaching Decepticon going out of his way to seek Prowl out as he lurked on the edges of the clearing. And a dangerous Decepticon at that. One that had been the focus of some of Prowl's tactical computer's worst worst-case scenarios.

"Autobot Commander Prowl." Soundwave's greeting was polite enough, and he stopped an equally polite distance away.

Prowl's doorwings, nevertheless, twitched restlessly.

Soundwave looked quite different without his visor and battlemask. He had adopted them, as far as Prowl could tell, when joining the Decepticons and had not been seen without them since. His face was smooth and serene, handsome even, and his optics pure white.

Soundwave had climbed the dais alone, his cassettes already dispersed among the crowd or in the air. When he reached the top, Megatron was already there, smiling. "Out of the way, Prime," the Decepticon leader said, "this one is definitely mine."

Soundwave had gone down on one knee, his head bowed. "My Lord."

Megatron's hands had settled on Soundwave's shoulders, and Prowl's sensors had barely detected the shiver that had gone through Soundwave's frame at that touch. Or the harder one that had gone through him when Megatron had said, in a warm rumble, "My most loyal soldier."

Soundwave's hands had come up, like those of a supplicant, slowly, slowly to rest on Megatron's hips. Some subtle communication had passed between them, undetectable to Prowl's sensors, and slowly, Soundwave leaned in to nuzzle at Megatron's spike. Slowly, his glossa had stroked over the slick, heated metal, and slowly, he'd taken the length of it into his mouth.

So slowly that some of the observers on the valley floor had grown bored, their attention turning to other, more actively exciting shows (Prime's round between Trailbreaker and Hound and Powerglide's demonstration of the right way to tweak a seeker's ailerons had drawn particular attention). Prowl, however, had found his optics drawn back again and again to the picture of Soundwave, unhurriedly licking and suckling every square millimeter of Megatron's spike, and of Megatron, hand cupping Soundwave's helm and not rushing him. The concentrated dedication that Soundwave had devoted to the job-his glossa leaving no bit of plate uncleaned before taking Megatron in-had been fascinating to watch, though there had been something in the interaction there, something worshipful and trusting, that was almost too intimate for public observation.

Somehow, it hadn't kept Prowl from watching, even when Megatron had laid Soundwave back and sank into him with a rumble of satisfaction, that worshipped spike making Soundwave arch and moan.

"Commander Soundwave," Prowl replied. The perennially-suspicious part of his processor upped his peripheral sensors' sensitivity and concentrated on the feed, just on the off chance that this interaction was a distraction. It didn't...appear to be.

"Prowl, waiting to take part in the ritual?"

"...Yes," Prowl answered.

"Prowl, still concerned about Decepticon intentions?"

Do turbofoxes have teeth? "Of course."

Soundwave nodded understandingly. "Sensible. Concern, however, unnecessary. Lord Megatron, threatened dire consequences for anyone who disrupts the ritual." He stepped exactly one step closer before stopping.

Prowl's doorwings twitched again. "You'll excuse me if I don't place much faith in Megatron's word."

Soundwave did not sound in the least offended. "Nonetheless, word given. Ritual, sancrosanct. All participants, safe."

"Mmm," Prowl said, the placeholder glyph meaning, if you say so, which of course meant that's nice, I'm going to go back to watching our backs now, if you don't mind. And he went back to doing that, hoping that Soundwave would take the hint and go off to interface with Astrotrain or the Constructicons or one of the other mechs still high on Prowl's list of possible problems.

Soundwave, however, just took another step closer to stand a polite distance from Prowl, turning to silently watch the proceedings as well.

Prowl's doorwings twitched. In annoyance this time, rather than alarm. After a long few minutes of the two of them watching the (increasingly writhing and moaning) gathering, Prowl said politely, "Are you not going to join the festivities?"

"Soundwave, hopes that Prowl will join him."

Prowl looked up from his projections of Time to 100% Blessed and reset his optics. "Me? Why...is that?"

::Do you need some backup, Prowl? Is he bothering you? I can comm Prime...::

::No, Red, it's fine. He's just..:: What? Nice? Friendly? That was giving the communications officer a bit too much credit, wasn't it? ::...under the influence of the blessing.::

::Well, yes.::

::It will be fine, Red. Prowl out.::

"Soundwave, always admired Prowl's intelligence, dedication, attention to detail." Without his helm accessories, Soundwave's face was much more expressive, and something in the quirk of his lips and the glow of his optics assured Prowl that this admiration was genuine. "Also, finds Prowl's frametype to be visually pleasing. Conclusion: interfacing with Prowl would be rewarding, mutually pleasurable experience."

"Well," Prowl said, unsure how to feel about the knowledge that he had always been Soundwave's type, let alone formulate a response to it. "Thank you, but-"

"Prowl wishes to be left alone," Soundwave suggested.

"Well-"

"Prowl wishes to be left out of the first major sacred ritual since leaving Cybertron."

"No, it's just-"

"Prowl has duties."

"Yes!"

"Prowl has duties which no other, such as Red Alert or other Autobots on perimeter could perform while Prowl receives Prima's Blessing."

Prowl narrowed his optics at Soundwave.

Soundwave took a small, careful step closer, then stopped again, waiting.

"You are being quite persistent," Prowl observed.

"Prowl, observant."

"Might I ask why that is?"

Soundwave shrugged. "Prowl, desirable. Also, as Autobot officer, important to convince Prowl of Decepticon intentions."

"Ah. And those intentions are?"

"Decepticons, support Lord High Protector. Lord High Protector, wishes for all to take part in successful ritual."

"Including me, I suppose?"

A final step and Soundwave was close enough to touch...but didn't. Not even with the vibrating hum of his EMF, which Prowl could feel tingling at the edge of his own. "Soundwave, wishes to give Prowl Prima's blessing. Soundwave, does not desire to make Prowl uncomfortable or upset. Prowl, always free to refuse Soundwave's advances. Communication," Soundwave said, his lips curling in amusement, "is key."

Prowl stared at Soundwave hard for a long moment. It was unheard of for a mech to refuse a blessing. It was part of the ritual, of accepting the common origins of all mechs and Primus' love for all. And yet...this was Soundwave. Dangerously observant, ferociously loyal Soundwave.

Ferociously loyal Soundwave, who had been within mechanometers of the Prime, who had been himself blessed by the very Lord Protector that Prime had himself blessed.

Prowl sighed, then immediately regretted how put-upon he sounded. A ritual of pleasure, connection, and sharing, and here he was, acting like Soundwave had asked him to orchestrate a five-battalion live-fire exercise.

Luckily, Soundwave appeared to understand the sigh and the slightly sheepish look that succeeded it. Very properly, he held out a hand, palm-up, and Prowl took it with only a slight hesitation. "I must admit that I have never terribly enjoyed such things," Prowl said.

"Query: holy rituals, interfacing...or hand-holding?" Soundwave asked, fingers closing over Prowl's. He still held a faint charge, which grounded to the edge of one of Prowl's plates in a tickling zing.

Prowl recognized that Soundwave was being purposely ridiculous with that last, but after a moment he had to admit, truthfully, "All three."

"Acknowledged." Soundwave moved the last half-step closer to close into Prowl's personal space. His entire frame, Prowl realized, was staticky with charge, his EMF thrumming with a content desire that Prowl never would have expected. Prowl's sensorwings shifted, opening cautiously to the datastream. "Prowl, found pleasure in interfacing at all?" Soundwave asked.

"Well...yes, I suppose. It just never seemed terribly important."

"A distraction from duty? Not worth the time spent? Or...not pleasurable enough?" Soundwave's fingers slid over joints, across sensor pads, teasing seams with pressure and heat. It was...distracting.

"A...bit of all three?"

"Hmm," Soundwave hummed, optics on Prowl as he lowered his mouth to Prowl's hand. As Prowl watched, he vented warm air over the sensor pads, glossa laving and dipping into the joints and seams of Prowl's palm. Prowl knew, on an intellectual level, that such was supposed to be flirtatious, pleasurable, but he had never found it so when previous lovers had tried it. Soundwave's attempt was, surprisingly, one of the best yet. Something about the deliberate, swiping pressure under plates and along the usually-hidden sensors at the base of Prowl's fingers was...interesting. Something that made Prowl's fingers want to twitch away and then press in for more.

"This, feel good?" Soundwave asked.

"Yes," Prowl admitted.

Soundwave slowly reached out his other hand, laying it against Prowl's side and sweeping it up and back along a torso seam. The touch made Prowl's plating clamp tight in concern, but Soundwave merely repeated the gesture, his mouth continuing to lave warm, wet pressure and suction on Prowl's fingers. When Prowl's plates eased, Soundwave trailed warm shivers of electromagnetic waves along his lateral seams, all the way up and back to the base of Prowl's doorwings. THAT made Prowl gasp, his doorwings twitching hard as a buzz of pleasure ricocheted from sensor to sensor.

Soundwave smiled. "This, feel good?"

"Yes," Prowl said, more breathlessly than he'd have liked.

Soundwave dipped his head to Prowl's wrist, lips closing over Prowl's wrist socket, tongue flicking out to lubricate the pins and then SUCKING.

Prowl was uncertain what noise he made, as pleasure burned through his circuits. The sensors in that port were not wired to take such input, should have rejected the data as anomalous, as making no SENSE, and yet the press and dance of a flexible glossa where only a hard and unyielding plug had ever been seated was...

"This," Soundwave breathed over the socket, the brush of ventilated air making Prowl shiver, "...pleasurable?"

"Yes," Prowl gasped.

Soundwave made a sound of satisfaction. "Soundwave's conclusion: Prowl's previous partners unskilled or impatient."

Prowl had a reflexive urge to defend those past partners, but as they were none of them present and Soundwave had already proven himself an adept at such things, he was willing to allow that Soundwave might be correct.

Soundwave pulled back, straightening slightly. "Soundwave, believes can bring Prowl more than enough pleasure to make interfacing worth Prowl's time. Prowl, consents to allowing Soundwave to try?"

Prowl chuckled. "How polite."

Soundwave nodded agreeably. "Explicit consent, efficient, gives smallest possibility of misunderstanding or giving offense."

"Oh, I completely agree." Charge danced in static under Soundwave's hand. "Approve, as well."

Soundwave waited, fingers patiently tracing back and forth along Prowl's side. Baaack and forth...

Prowl had to admit that the communication officer's patience appealed to him. As did the particular EM frequencies Soundwave was stroking along his seams. "All right. I consent to let you try."

Soundwave smiled with every evidence of genuine pleasure at the idea, and the expression made him surprisingly beautiful. "Excellent."

Prowl's helm jerked to the side as Laserbeak swooped in and landed on a tree limb not far away. The cassette dipped his head at Prowl respectfully but made no move to get closer.

"Laserbeak, enjoys watching," Soundwave explained, unperturbed.

Prowl chuckled. "Why am I not surprised?"

"Prowl, objects to audience?"

The Autobot SIC's smile was wry. "I would be out of luck if I did, wouldn't I be? Privacy appears to be in short supply this evening." He gestured with his free hand to the clearing and then nodded acknowledgingly to the cassette. Laserbeak settled on his branch with an amused glyph to Soundwave indicating his approval of Soundwave's choice of partner.

"Prowl, objects to anything else? Practices, not wanted?"

"Ah...such as?"

"Sensory experiences, not enjoyed? Parts of frame Prowl does not want touched during tactile play?"

"None...that I can think of." Prowl could not rule out the possibility that he would find something to object to later. "Only...a gentle touch on the doorwings, if you please. They are very sensitive."

Soundwave nodded. "Noted. Prowl, enjoys systems connection?"

"No." It was a lie. With a trusted partner, nothing could overload him faster than matching processors, than feeling the strain as they fed sensory data back and forth in an endless, blinding loop. But linking processors necessarily meant a hardline, and there was no way, blessing or no, that Prowl was going to give one of the Decepticons' best hackers a hardline into his processor. Something knowing in Soundwave's optics made Prowl admit, "Not...in these circumstances."

"Acknowledged," Soundwave said, again not appearing offended. Instead, he leaned in, his EMF laying over Prowl's as his hands settled on Prowl's sides, his head cocking to one side. "Soundwave, may kiss Prowl?"

"...If you'd like?"

So Soundwave did, and it was...nice. Pleasant, even, though Prowl got more enjoyment out of the electromagnetic heat of Soundwave's spark than he did any coordinated movement of lip components. Still, though, he found himself relaxing into the embrace. Soundwave was being...beyond polite, really. This level of pre-interface communication was unprecedented, in Prowl's experience. Perhaps it was calculated to put Prowl at ease, but it was certainly working. He had never been fond of interfacing precisely because there seemed to be so little structure to it, so few hard and fast rules. It was all glances and implications and unspoken wants. After a few mediocre encounters, Prowl had given up on the whole practice as a highly inefficient use of his time, even for something meant only to be pleasurable.

Soundwave was certainly going about it the right way, however, in Prowl's opiniion. The discussion of what Prowl did and did not want was reassuring in a way that Prowl had not expected. Being able to know what to expect allowed Prowl's processor to cautiously dump variables, leaving him less distracted and more able to focus on the issue at hand. Or mouth, as the case may be.

Or spark. Prowl had never before paid much attention to anything but the most obvious spark energy pulses, even during interfacing. Now, though, brought in close with the kiss, Prowl could feel Soundwave's spark cycling pleasantly, his field utterly placid against Prowl's. Prowl's sensors, good as they were, could detect nothing untoward: Soundwave was unarmed, his systems running only as warm as might be expected, and his spark frequency was backed with resonances that Prowl's sensors found...soothing. The blessing, Prowl supposed. Certainly they did not cycle like anything else that Prowl had ever encountered.

::Prowl?::

::All clear, Red.::

A glyph of worry and anxiety. ::If he goes for your systems, I'm taking countermeasures, Prowl.::

::Acknowledged.::

Prowl felt it only fair to warn Soundwave of this.

Soundwave nodded, pulling his mouth away from the lip component he was nibbling to respond. "Soundwave, will not connect...unless Prowl asks for and clears it first."

A few kliks ago Prowl would have found the idea ridiculous, but now, with his wrist socket still tingling from Soundwave's attentions, the idea now seemed just as irresponsible but several times more tempting.

Soundwave, meanwhile, seemed to have a plan. This plan involved starting at the top of Prowl and working his way down. Carefully. Thoughtfully. Thoroughly. He began with a reminder that Prowl should tell him if he wished Soundwave to stop. Then he licked the sensory arrays in Prowl's chevron, sucking on the tips while his fingers rubbed at the base. He worked his way slowly downwards, fingers sliding around to stroke the back of Prowl's helm while they kissed again, at length. Then those strong, blunt fingers dug into the linkages of Prowl's neck while Soundwave investigated the sounds Prowl made when his neck cables were kissed and sucked on. He made his way down one shoulder, then continued on down Prowl's arm, fingers and glossa sliding under plates now loosened with desire and the need to dump as much heat as possible.

By the time he made it to Prowl's wrist socket again, Prowl was all but trembling, and he bit back on a cry of pleasure as warm lips closed once again on the components, pointed glossa circling around the pins in a heady spiral that left Prowl utterly unaware of anything but his and Soundwave's frames.

::?:: Soundwave pinged, his mouth quite busy.

"How...how do you..."

::Prior to the war, Soundwave worked with several Praxians. Communications and analysis frametypes, similar to Prowl's.:: Soundwave reached up, one hand stroking over a mostly-hidden neural line tucked up under the thin, flexible plates joining Prowl's doorwings to his back. ::Soundwave, trained in proper care and pleasuring of such frametypes.::

Prowl's back arched as he cried out, pleasure flashing along his sensorwing and stuttering along his neural net. His hands groped, reaching out for something to anchor him and finding Soundwave's shoulders convenient.

::Prowl, beautiful in pleasure,:: Soundwave observed as his mouth gave one last, loving lick to Prowl's socket and skated back along the inside of Prowl's arm. His hands remained on Prowl's sensorwing linkages, and yes, he'd been trained WELL, as he knew just where to stroke and how not to get his fingers caught as the appendages twitched and shuddered in response. Soundwave's lips moved downward, over Prowl's chest, now relieved of most of the kibble that made up Prowl's hood. Soundwave pressed a lingering kiss to the heated plating over Prowl's engine block and continued on, further down over Prowl's ventrum.

Prowl's ventilations picked up as it became increasingly difficult to concentrate. To keep track of everything that Soundwave was doing. Prowl ached to turn his tactical computer back on, to set it to the task of analyzing all this new information and its implications...

Prowl's wings twitched in surprise as Soundwave sank slowly to his knees. "Prowl," Soundwave vented against Prowl's hip, "does not need to analyze this." Prowl's processor fairly stuttered as Soundwave-Third in Command of the Decepticons, the cold interrogator, Megatron's silent optics and audials, SOUNDWAVE-licked a bold stripe over Prowl's interface panel. "Prowl, merely needs to experience and enjoy." When a moment passed in which Prowl could do nothing but nod in acknowledgment, Soundwave asked, "Prowl, wishes to continue?"

Prowl nodded, more forcefully this time.

"Soundwave, wishes to taste Prowl's spike. Permission granted?"

"Yes!" Prowl's answer was half-moan, half-gasp as his interface panel slid back eagerly, the action completely autonomic for the first time in vorns.

Soundwave wasted no time, optics narrowing in satisfaction as he pressed lips and glossa to the bared metal. Exploring, testing, tasting with the same thoroughness he'd shown to the rest of Prowl's frame.

"Prowl, approves?" Soundwave asked, looking up the length of Prowl's frame. "Wants more?"

Prowl glared at him. "You're enjoying this."

Soundwave smiled, slow and dark...and waited.

"Yes, damn you," Prowl hissed, hips rolling to urge Soundwave back to his spike. "More."

Soundwave was apparently only too happy to comply. Prowl's sensor net sang under the attention, threat assessment protocols completely shutting down in the face of pleasure and a growing, completely irrational sense of safety. That last had nothing to do with Soundwave's intake cradling and gently squeezing his spike but instead seemed to seep in through the joins in his plating, lapping at his internals like a warm oilbath and suffusing his spark. He felt a last burst of panic at the irrational reaction, looking down at Soundwave to make sure that they hadn't been connected while he'd been distracted, but no, the Decepticon communications officer was still devoting all his attention to systematically testing every sensor node on Prowl's spike with his glossa.

Rest, Prowl, echoed through his spark. Enjoy. All is well. All will be well.

Is it? Will it?

Amusement. Do you doubt?

Prowl gasped, ventilation hissing as Soundwave found a particularly sensitive join and flicked it, again...and again. Prowl's systems, rocked and trembling on the edge of something that was and was not overload, could only spit out basic machine-code: insufficient information/unable to compute/more data required.

His spark rang with the answering notification: incoming connection.

Data streamed into his processor, the calculations filling him. The sensation eclipsed even the slow, hot suction on his spike with the sheer bliss of his neural net being properly used, every thread occupied, every microprocessor engaged. His entire frame hummed with strain translated into whirring fans and frantically calculating relays. His tactical computer came back online merely to relieve the backlog in his queue. The requests came in a steady flow that was like nothing Prowl had ever experienced. He barely knew what he was processing, could not begin to parse the markers for time and probability, the swarm of variables that attended them like wheeling seekers.

An algorithm-just one, beautiful, infinitely complex algorithm that occupied his entire processor-took shape in his cortex, and as the data flowed into it, Prowl shook with the realization of what was happening...because he HAD experienced something like this before.

Long, long ago, back on Cybertron, the scientific cityformer Cyclotron had been performing time-sensitive research for the Autobots. Damaged as Cyclotron had been, he had suggested networking as a way of increasing his processing speed. Every analytic-grade frametype had been called upon to help, and Prowl and Optimus Prime himself had lain for a full cycle in Cyclotron's inner sanctum, connected to the cityformer as they lent their processing power to his.

This was like that, though different. The sense of being annexed on the machine level, of being a part of a larger whole, was the same, but this was on a much, much grander scale. With Cyclotron, Prowl had been able to see the shape of what he'd been working on, of the model he was building. Now, it was as if his perspective had shrunk, his piece of the processing puzzle smaller...or as if his processor worked on an incredibly large piece of an incomprehensibly huge whole. And while Cyclotron had been polite, even impersonal in his connections, this...this was not. This data was ripe with packets of acceptance/love, riddled with markers for pride and desire and happiness-after-long-sadness.

Primus...

For one long klik, Prowl's processor, slaved to Primus' own, aided in calculating his own fate.

Prowl's awareness came back to his own frame just as he overloaded. He cried out, his sensor net singing with pleasure as Soundwave did SOMETHING with dentae and glossa and field that sent Prowl careering over the edge, the pleasure taking Prowl out at the knees. Prowl clutched at Soundwave's shoulders, and Soundwave's hands and arms were there, catching Prowl around the thighs and supporting his weight as he eased Prowl through another overload.

When Prowl could see again, both of them were on the ground, arms twined and anchoring them as they leaned against each other. Prowl noted the spectrum of his own optics and automatically updated his records of blessed mechs, even as he noted that he didn't...feel very different.

Except for the obvious, of course.

"Thank you," Prowl said, easing back so he could actually look at Soundwave. His sensor wings noted how warm the Decepticon was running, and he realized that Soundwave had not overloaded at all, though he was certainly aroused.

Prowl felt that quite unfair, all considered. His hands slid down from Soundwave's shoulders to his chest compartment, fingers lingering on the intricate connections that were usually hidden by his armor. Soundwave's ventilations caught, and Prowl paused, realizing that he was breaking his own rules. He folded his fingers into his palms. "What would you like?"

Soundwave smiled, fingers coming up to cup Prowl's own, to drag them back to where they'd been. "Soundwave, wants Prowl to touch." He leaned in, nuzzling at Prowl's neck cables. "Wants Prowl to enjoy. When Prowl has recovered..." He sent a constructed image: Prowl on hands and knees, Soundwave taking his valve from behind while he stroked Prowl's sensor wings.

Prowl shivered. "I...would not be averse to that." He drew his fingers hesitantly along the top of Soundwave's cassette compartment. "Is this all right? I've never interfaced with your frametype before."

"Acknowledged," Soundwave purred, drawing Prowl's fingers along the sides of his chest compartment and under... "Soundwave, certain that Prowl is a fast learner."

Laserbeak, helpfully, sent Prowl diagrams.