Watch & Burn
Chapter 5: Lesson 5: Evasive Manoeuvres
She retired to her room at midday, while this world's weak yellow sun burnt high in the sky. If only she could blame the fuzziness in her processor on Cliffjumper's fist. The morning had been... pleasant. Such experiences were rare, where Megatron was concerned.
I still believe that somewhere within you, there is a capacity for greatness.
Those had been Megatron's words. And while long experience had taught Starscream to mistrust them - surely, Megatron would only foist such compliments upon her if she desired something in return! - Megatron had made no more advances, no more demands. Certainly, there had been no more spark-swelling kisses, the sort that smoldered her tank like fouled energon, and made her furious in all the wrong and right ways. For all intents and purposes, Megatron had been the perfect gentlemech on their little joy-flight. She'd even thanked Starscream after they landed.
It was, Starscream decided, clinking into her personal washracks and setting the solvent level to a gentle solution that should eat through the dust and saltspray on her plating, highly suspicious. She'd told Megatron she wouldn't be crawling back to her berth anytime soon. She'd made it very fragging clear. And Megatron... Had accepted it. Without causing Starscream much in the way of undue damage. She’d even proceeded to treat her as if she were a mech worthy of holding a conversation with, and…
Starscream’s jaw champed. Pathetic. For a mech of her standing to suckle on such scraps of affection, and draw any nutrition forth! What did a kind word do, to make up for the dent Megatron crushed into her arm last night? What of all the dents that preceded it?
You have more pride than this, she snarled, in the privacy of her own mind. You are Air Commander Starscream, Winglord of Vos. You will not be tamed by a few sweet nothings from the beast who makes you call her 'Master'! Unfortunately, while her helm made the sensible choice and agreed that they would never again design to have any part of Megatron’s anatomy within grinding distance, her cooling fans didn’t get the memo.
Starscream groaned as they whirred to life.
Her processor replayed Megatron cutting through the surf, a force of pure might. The rumble of her jets tremoring the waves. It produced an alternate scenario, whereupon Starscream had flown up to her and twisted beneath. Rubbed her cockpit lasciviously on Megatron’s undercarriage in that way of hungry young Seekers. Where Megatron responded...
Stupid. Childish, imbecilic.
Megatron wouldn't understand the gesture, much less the offer it contained. And Starscream, for all the conflicted heat that had sunk through her frame when Megatron kissed her, wouldn't want the old fool to take her up on it. Their flame guttered out, long ago. Why reignite it, when Starscream would be the only one burnt?
She stepped beneath the spray. Tilting her head, she let the solvent pour into the crevice of her collar-armor. The warm liquid welled up and over, soaking her neck-cables, draining into all those hard-to-reach nooks and crevices where her armor closed over her protoform. Her wings fluttered, flicking droplets in all directions. She cupped handfuls of the turquoise solvent, rubbing it over her faceplates until they felt clean again.
Bathing had been a communal pleasure, on Vos. But there were no true Seekers left to wash wings with, and Starscream did not deign to join the public washracks with the common drones. She rubbed up and down her arms, over the newly-hammered forearm guard where Megatron had tried to crush her wrist. Her claws lingered there a moment, brushing the head of her replaced missile. Then continued, up and over her chest plates, around her insignia, alighting flickers of feedback through her sensory array.
Megatron, gliding after her contrails, clumsily emulating each manoeuvre.
Starscream dug talons into the seams between her exposed tank tubing, ensuring any grime washed away.
Megatron, dodging the eruption of spray from the great whale’s blowhole, returning dripping and snarling to Starscream's side.
Starscream smoothed a handful of solvent over her thighs, trickles snaking over sleek silver plates.
Megatron's silence when Starscream dared snigger – followed by a grumbling ex-vent, rather than pain.
Starscream rinsed the point where her armor curved back on itself, leaving the protomesh of her inner thighs exposed. A thin layer of metal separated her claws from her vital energon lines. It was a necessary vulnerability, for one whose battle tactics focused on aerial speed - and yet, when she trusted her partner, nothing warmed her faster than attention to those tender, dark gray stripes.
Once, she couldn't help but recall, she had trusted Megatron.
Megatron this morning, on the flight deck, one hand open to encompass the clouds...
Starscream sighed. She rested her helm back against the wall of the shower, shutting her optics and listening to the rhythmic beat of the solvent over her plating, the camber on the tiled floor.
'After you, Starscream'.
Asshole. This was all her fault.
Starscream ran the very tips of her claws over her thighs. Lightly. So lightly. Not rough enough to scratch the surface.
Then she repeated it, a little harder. The rush of sensation made her hips arch from the wall of their own accord. Her spark pulsed, her core clenched, sensory system sparkling with current.
Perhaps she could...? Megatron had given her a joor to refuel before returning to the Bridge to resume the day's activities. That was time enough to take off the edge, as young mechs called it. The solvent thundered around her, a curtain that parted her from the world. She was just… attending to her needs, that was all. It'd been so long since she had a long, free flight like that, no orders belted into her commlink, no mission to complete. Just herself and the cold cut of the wind, and Megatron, and -
No. This wasn't about Megatron. This, for once, was all about Starscream.
She didn't think about Megatron, as she kneaded her solvent-striped legs.
She didn't think about Megatron, as she slid back her pointed modesty panel.
She didn't even think about her as she stroked down over her spike housing, ghosting the tips of her claws against the soft, slickening mesh of her valve. It took an irksome amount of effort.
Starscream shook her helm. She rubbed her spike housing, quick and efficient, the circular motions sending sharp stabs of pleasure into her abdomen. She was here to get off, not pamper herself. Her spike pressurized obediently, nosing forth into her fist. If only all her underlings could be so biddable. It was a streamlined handful, slim and silver as the rest of her, a line of red biolights flickering along its underside.
Starscream shuffled on the slippery, solvent-splattered floor, bracing herself with her back to the wall. The movement made her valve twinge. Empty, needing.
'Greedy little thing', Megatron used to purr, lubricant bridging her lips to Starscream's anterior node. Her glossa furled out, lapping it away. 'Just like the rest of you...'
Only – no. Starscream wasn't thinking about that.
Like, as she gathered a handful of solvent to ease the slide of her spike through her fist, she wasn't thinking about the rare occasion Megatron consented to let Starscream crawl over her supine form, straddling her broad chest to tease the tip of her slender spike on those scarred gray lipplates. Or even when Megatron growled and flipped them, pinning Starscream to the berth with her hips, lowering her great weight inch by torturous inch...
The plush squeeze of Megatron's valve around her, the only softness on her giant frame. The way she would hold Starscream motionless, relinquishing not an inch of control as she ground her thin wrists together in one giant hand and rode her slow enough not to crush...
Starscream hissed. She pulled at her spike, shunting the overlapping gray plates roughly against one another.
This whole not thinking about Megatron thing wasn't going so well. Her cooling fans span on their highest setting, a constant audible whirr. The air around Starscream heated; the solvent evaporated in sour-scented steam. She barely noticed, spike dripping, valve clenching slickly over itself. Need tingled under her slim gray plates.
"Frag you, Megatron," she hissed, and dropped her spike to attend to the wetness beneath.
More memories, flitting through her processor one after the next. A slideshow reel of copulation, gathered from across the millennia.
Megatron enjoyed valve stimulation on occasion, but Primus, did she love using her spike. Specifically, using it to make a writhing mess of Starscream. Slipping the curved head just between her folds, not deep enough to clench down on. Rubbing along the sticky seam of her valve lips, grazing her anterior node with each measured stroke. Pushing her thighs into a split, until even Starscream's flexible hip gyros strained. Huffing hot air on her ailerons, growling that if she wanted Megatron's spike, all she had to do was beg...
But begging Megatron had taken on less fun connotations, since Starscream first had to do it for her life.
Starscream gnawed her lips. She weighed that ugly thought against the promise of release – then, decisively, cast it away.
She pushed slicked fingers two-together into her valve. Stretching, searching, digging for that old, half-forgotten pleasure, how Megatron (not Master, never Master back then) made her arch until her spinal struts burned and she lived up to her designation, wailing her name - "Megatron, Megatron, Megatron, please..." - at the skies...
It built and burst inside her, a hot throb that raced up her spike and simmered on each stimulated node of her valve.
Starscream's back tightened. Her helm knocked on the wall, her mouth dropped wide. Some solvents splattered her tongue – sour, soapy – but she hardly cared.
Her optics shuttered; her knees locked so she didn't fall. Her heeled peads skidded in the solvents, transfluid pulsing from spike and valve in slick, sweet spurts, drenching her trembling claws.
Megatron, she thought, just once more. Then her wobbling ankle struts admitted defeat, and deposited her in the draining puddle of solvent and her own fluids.
For a breem, Starscream did very little.
She sat there, optics closed, shuddering as her sensitized spike retreated into its housing and her panels slid slowly, stickily closed. Eventually, the beat of solvent on her wings grew bothersome, and so she reached up and shut off the shower. Then she sat there a little longer.
She felt... Well, she didn't know how she felt.
That, perhaps, was the worst part of all. She couldn't stay on the floor forever - tempting as it may be. Her chrono bleeped, reminding her she was scheduled to take over the next Bridge shift, and that she hadn't yet refueled. Starscream sighed. Then, legs numbed from the intensity of the overload, she used the wall to lever herself to her feet like a mech twice her age.
If Megatron had fragged her, her valve would be burning right now. A spark-deep ache, as if she'd stretched Starscream to fit only herself…
Once, Starscream enjoyed being reminded of Megatron's spike with every step she took from her berth. Now, the thought of having another mark of Megatron’s ownership on her, in her, as well as the color of her optics and the crest on her chest? Well. Starscream didn't know if she wanted to sprint to Megatron's cabin and create some new memories, or crawl to her waste disposal unit and purge.
Neither option was suitable, so Starscream rested her helm on the cool panelled wall of the shower until she could ex-vent without a shake. Then she righted herself, dried off, and marched to the mess hall. If she couldn’t satisfy this angry twist of wants in her spark, perhaps sating a different sort of hunger would suffice.
“Commander!” Knock Out hailed her from the table she’d commandeered in the mess hall, along with Breakdown and a couple of eradicon drones. Starscream slowed to a halt, narrowing her optics.
“What do you want?”
Knock Out unpeeled her cube with a smack of her lips. “To congratulate you, of course! You haven’t been in the medbay in almost a whole cycle. I was starting to think you’d offlined.” Breakdown hid her grin in her own meal, and the eradicons were wise enough to stifle their smirks. This meant Starscream only had to glare at the doctor – which she did, with gusto.
Her initial plan – to enjoy a cube, then pay Knock Out a visit and demand that the Doctor tweak her malfunctioning balance gyro – lost its appeal.
“Your commentary is, as ever, unappreciated,” she growled.
“And here I thought you kept visiting so that you could enjoy my scintillating conversation!”
“As if. Welding your mouth shut would make a major improvement to your bedside manner.”
Knock Out clutched her chest plates. “Breakdown, fetch the defibrillator. I’m struck to the spark.”
Starscream rolled her eyes. She made to step away from the table, aiming for her quarters, where she could sip on her cube in peace. The squeak of a chair prevented her. She turned back, to find Knock Out, grin shifted into something more welcoming, nudging it further out with her pede.
“Come, Commander. One should never drink alone.”
“I’m a jet,” muttered Starscream, for what felt like the thousandth time. “We drink high-grade in order to fly…”
“And there’s no reason,” said Knock Out smoothly, “why you shouldn’t do it in company.”
There was no way out. Starscream clenched her left fist – the other being occupied with the cube – growled, and sank mutinously to rest on the proffered seat. Knock Out chuckled. “No need to make it look as if I have a blaster to your head. Relax a little, won’t you?”
Starscream permitted a soupcon of tension to dip from her wings.
Knock Out waited a further minute, blinking patiently, then sighed. “I suppose that’s the best we’re getting. How go your lessons with our Lord and Master?”
Why would she ask such a thing? Had Soundwave put her up to this – gathering information, searching for that crack in Starscream’s motivation? That splinter of resentment that would, once more, give Megatron the excuse to wrap her claws around Starscream’s throat?
Knock Out leaned back. “Woah. No need to look like a hunted turbofox.”
How dare she liken her to such a beast! “I am not –“
“Anyway,” continued Knock Out, as if she didn’t hear, “enough small talk. We were just speaking of your impending ascension to the Decepticon throne.”
Starscream’s jaw dropped. She instinctively hunched, making herself a smaller target, scanning the rafters for Laserbeak, who would – of course – be reporting her response to this treasonous offer back to Soundwave. “I – I – what?”
“Quit rattling her, Doc,” grumbled Breakdown. She leaned over the table as if she planned on patting Starscream’s quivering shoulder, as she would with any common drone – always did cultivate a curious fondness for the fools, though Starscream couldn’t fathom why. Luckily, for the sake of her faceplates, she took one look at Starscream's scowl and thought better of it.
“Knock Out’s just talking about Megatron’s upcoming off-world mission,” she said, digits curling back under themselves and retreating out of Starscream’s claw-swiping range. “Figured you’d step up as Lord Regent for the duration, is all.”
Starscream’s mouth had yet to close. It was only her awareness that if she gaped much longer, oral fluid would start to drool out, that forced her to shut it.
Knock Out leaned conspiratorially in. “Surely you know. Megatron is intending to leave Earth on a long-term exploratory space flight, and…” She trailed off, taking in the shock inscribed in every line on Starscream’s faceplates. “Oh. It appears you, um, didn’t know. Well. That makes this a little awkward.”
Starscream wasn’t listening. Starscream barely registered the words.
Megatron was leaving the Decepticons under her command. And Starscream heard this first from the ship’s medic? Who had been gossiping on the subject to a handful of drones? Her wings flared up behind her. Inexcusable. Utterly, infuriatingly, inexcusable.
“Excuse me,” said Starscream, pushing to her pedes. Knock Out mirrored her, almost kneeing Breakdown in the process.
“Woah there, Commander! Please – don’t do anything rash – I became privy to the information through unconventional means – I swear, I had no idea that–“
Her voice trailed off, no doubt because her processor failed to supply a finish to that sentence that wouldn’t grossly offend Starscream’s sensibilities. This was, quite simply, because there wasn’t one.
I had no idea that Lord Megatron chose to share this intelligence with me, rather than you, her highest ranked officer.
I had no idea that you were out of the loop.
Not in the know.
Left out of the circle.
Starscream’s mind supplied all these alternatives, and more.
“Doc’s got a point,” sounded Breakdown’s low rumble. Starscream paid it as little attention as she usually afforded the rest of the mech. “Don’t want you coming back to the medbay in little pieces.” She left the ‘again’ unsaid. But Starscream heard it, and she was convinced that the watching eradicons and vehicons did, too.
No. She couldn’t afford to lose her cool here, slash Breakdown across the boxy chestplates for her impudence. If what they said was true, she needed to foster allegiances, not grudges. Starscream turned before the temptation could overcome her, wings drawn up tight and high.
“If anyone here is assigned to the next Bridge shift, find occupation elsewhere.”
Her voice was quiet, hoarse, still a little staticky from that magnificent overload – but it carried. Starscream left her untouched cube of energon on the table, and went to shout at her Master.