Author's Notes – For TF-Speedwriting. Prompt – Cuddle pile. The theme for the day was "Awww" (aka – "Write something for the prompts that make the reader go "Awww". Be it because it's cute, or just a sweet and fluffy situation, interaction or whatever, or make it nostalgic or melancholic and sad. Or write whatever you think will make the reader 'd'awww'! :D At what scene or conversation you'd make that sound? [wink]")

Elements of this fic stem from the same headcanon as my fic "The Price of Success." This one-shot doesn't have a warning for triggers, but please mind if you go to read it: that one does.

Time note: a joor is roughly the equivalent of two Earth hours.

Disclaimer – "Transformers" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Hasbro, Takara, and any other related owners/distributors/producers. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.

"Huddle"
by DragonDancer5150

Battle-wounded and storm-weary, the Command Trine of the Decepticon Army was a bedraggled, sorry sight to behold. Mercifully, there was no one to behold them.

Having been driven to ground by a raging acid storm, the trio had found refuge in the blasted-out hollow of a collapsed building in some city that had been conquered, razed, and forgotten only-Primus-knew-how-long ago. The make-shift shelter wasn't small by most people's standards, but it had still taken both Starscream and Skywarp together to wrestle Thundercracker into it with them. Seekers on the whole were notorious for their claustrophobia, but the trine's normally stoic second suffered from it in spades.

Starscream looked over at his wingmate. Like himself and Skywarp, Thundercracker was a mess of dented and scratched armor, and minor energon leaks his auto-repair system must (hopefully) have clamped by now, plus a quiet tremor that had nothing to do with his injuries. He sat against a wall, optics offline, dealing the best he could. An undercurrent of dread and a certainty of being crushed any minute now, the walls closing in on him he was sure of it, beat at Starscream over the trinebond despite Thundercracker's best efforts. Not that Starscream could blame his second. He could see the walls moving out of the corners of his vision, only stopping when he turned to look.

"This is all your fault."

Starscream bristled, the words biting out a syllable at a time. "Shut. Up. Sky. Warp." They'd had this argument three times already in the span of the past quarter-joor.

The trine's third sat opposite him on the other side of the opening of what once must have been a door with a bay window next to it. Some firepower or some explosion or something had long ruined both portals and decimated the wall between, leaving only a single gaping hole. Recon of the area said that there were Neutrals here. The last thing the wounded trio needed was to be happened upon by a gang of ravenous strays.

"We'll beat the storm!" Skywarp pitched his voice up high in a poor imitation of Starscream's. "Let these scaredy-mechs hide and wait it out. We'll make it back with time to spare!"

Starscream had crossed the space between them, a null-ray powered and pressed to the front of Skywarp's helm, before either of them was aware of what was happening. Starscream enjoyed the overbright optics and startled trill of his trinemate even as he recovered internally from his own surprise. Dearly as he might love to send his troublesome wingmate into forced stasis, he needed to conserve his energy. They all did.

"Meteorology was never a particular interest of mine, Skywarp, but one thing I can tell you is that there is no reason the storm should have shifted like that!" Starscream froze even as the last words left his vocalizer, memories of high winds, frigid snow, and spark-wrenching loss pounding at him suddenly from a hidden, near-forgotten corner of his processor. He snarled as he shoved those thoughts away with unforgiving viciousness, turning his mind back to more productive matters.

He supposed he could blame the Autobots for everything. Give him time and he'd figure out how.

He'd need to if he wanted to lessen the beating he already knew was coming.

Frag it all, it wasn't even his fault this time! If he was going to be beaten for a failure, real or imagined, he made sure whenever he could that at least he'd earned it. Sometimes he did things just to spite Megatron because at least then he could glean some satisfaction from the situation, since he was likely to be punished either way. And his trine with him as often as not. This was one of those times he had, believe it or not, followed Megatron's plan to the letter. Why? Because he'd actually believed it would work this time. Silly him. But it hadn't – of course! – and who's fault was that going to be? Certainly not the mighty, infallible, know-it-all Megatron.

Spinning away from Skywarp, Starscream shot a random pile of rubble in his seething frustration as he moved back over to his side of the opening. He justified the position as watching for Neutrals – he knew Skywarp was doing the same – but with the toxic acid dumping down from the sky, not even a mech in his wrong mind would be out and about for at least a joor. Being this close to the opening, even though the very air felt like it wanted to melt the finish from their plating, let them feel not quite so closed in.

Behind him, Thundercracker had slipped into a light recharge, and a soft moan escaped his vocalizer in time with the shudder that skittered over the bond. Both Starscream and Skywarp shifted to give him looks that were somewhere between irritation and empathy.

They both knew where his mind was. The injuries from the battle plus the close quarters were pretty much a sure-fire equation for it, even if they hadn't all known already what was coming once they returned to base. Starscream had wanted to get back ahead of the rest of the troops to make sure that his version of what had happened was the first one Megatron heard. He could usually keep a better handle on things that way. Now . . .

Another shudder wracked through him, and he couldn't be sure if it was Thundercracker's or his own. Or maybe Skywarp's, as his wingmate made a rather pathetic face just then and abandoned his post to crawl over to the blue Seeker and tuck against his side. Thundercracker settled a little almost instantly.

Starscream looked at his wingmates, then back out at the decimated ruins of the city around them. Blazing crimson optics flashed all of a sudden out of his mind's eye, and the sensation of a powerful, black hand started to close around his throat. Biting back a thin trill and wrestling it into a growl out of sheer obstinance, he too turned his back on the opening and shifted over to his wingmates, dropping down on Thundercracker's other side. While he'd never admit to it aloud, nor even acknowledge it within himself when he could help it, there was something else of his kind, in addition to the claustrophobia, that he shared.

The comfort gained from a "Seeker pile".

Starscream huddled into Thundercracker's other side, feeling his second's spark settle further. Somehow, the crowded proximity of wingmates helped to counter rather than worsen the crowded proximity of walls and unforgiving ceiling. Support and reassurance resonated back and forth across the trinebond, and Starscream felt his anxieties lessen, relieved if only temporarily. What would come would come. Try as he might to fight it – and fight it he would! – even he knew there was no stopping it. But for a time, he could pretend to forget it. His trine was as frustrating and dysfunctional as everything else in his life, but they were his. For a time, piled with them in a quiet hiding spot far from home, he could enjoy a little moment of rest.