The world spins madly on.
Time passes, Megatron reflects, faster than it ought, but slower than he needs it to. More Cybertronians return to the fold, but few, far too few. They return bedraggled and worn, broken and hurting, grief-stricken and thunderstruck by the idea of a lasting peace.
There are incidents. There are always incidents. Mechs who lost their mind sometime during the war and haven’t found their way back to it yet. Those with grudges, memorized names and faces of opponents who had killed someone they loved. Autobots are angry, and Decepticons feel beaten, and Neutrals are annoyed by it all.
They get by. It gets easier. Protocols are developed. Bonds are made. Friendships are forged. Cities are rebuilt, inch by inch. There’s talk of sending out ships, search parties, to find lost Cybertronians and bring them back home.
Predators and vultures lurk like an ever-present danger, well aware of how easy it would be to invade Cybertron and plunder the riches that remain. They’ll have a fight on their hands, those who survived the massive civil war survived for a reason, but it’ll still be catastrophic to the Cybertronians.
They are so few now. That is the issue which troubles Megatron the most. Optimus had made the decision to pitch the Allspark into the universe, to save it from Megatron’s use. Optimus had been the one to destroy the Allspark. And now, without it, Cybertron has no future.
Sometimes, he wonders the point.
Time passes, and Ratchet stays.
Sometimes, Megatron wonders if he really did survive the battle in Chicago, all those decades ago. He wonders if Optimus really offered him mercy, if he’d truly been given a chance, because this has to be a dream. Maybe he’s actually dead, and this is the afterlife, the Well of Allsparks, the Pit or Purgatory.
Maybe it’s a dream. If it is, he doesn’t want to wake.
Though he could do without the meetings. Necessary, they are, but boring and irritating besides.
Megatron doodles in his datapad, ostensibly taking notes but not actually listening. He trusts Dreadwing will fill him in on the important details later. Or perhaps Deathsaurus, who takes a keen interest in these administrative matters. It seems incongruous, for the playful beast-former to be so fascinated by the day to day minutiae of running the military side of an empire, but such is the way of things.
Megatron’s already given a summary of his part in matters. Their defense force is well-trained, well-staffed, and he has no complaints. At the moment, they have no immediate concerns to contend with. There is a distant threat of some civilization thinking the Cybertronians an easy target. Someone else proposes that the Quintessons might return, to reclaim their escaped slaves, but otherwise, they are in no danger.
All that remains is the lengthier and more boring portion of the monthly assembly: the civilian side of matters. Optimus’ purview. Megatron’s only contribution to this is his oversight of the police and enforcer department, hardly necessary at this point.
He zones out sometime around the discussion of how to mine for the materials needed, but something catches his attention when the word ‘repopulate’ is brought into the conversation.
“We are dying,” Prowl says in that tight, joyless tone of his. Jaw set, he clutches a datapad as if it were a lifeline. How Thundercracker finds such tedium attractive, Megatron will never understand.
“Without the capability to grow our population, even we will become extinct with time and there will be nothing left to show we were here, but the echoes of our war across the universe.”
It’s almost poetic. For Prowl.
“We know that,” Dreadwing growls, not entertained by Prowl’s conversational cadence. His chair creaks as he shifts. “Unless you’ve got a solution, you don’t need to keep reminding us.”
Prowl frowns. His sensory panels flick, like Starscream’s wings used to do when he was annoyed.
“I have a theory.”
Megatron cycles his optics. Even Prowl looks startled. Every mech at the large table turns to look at Cyclonus, whose dour voice had cut through the tension. Cyclonus had returned some years past, leader of a faction of Neutrals, devoutly religious and often one to cut his optics at Megatron, mouth down-turned in sharp disapproval.
Cyclonus had been one of the ones most outspoken to Megatron’s ascension. He’d been so fond of Galvatron. As if it were Megatron’s fault his predecessor had extinguished.
“Please, Cyclonus, do share,” Optimus encourages with patience bred of necessity. Only Megatron could see the irritation beneath his placid smile.
He’d always been able to see through his brother’s masks.
“There is a story,” Cyclonus begins, his grave tone nearly enough to send Megatron into a light doze, and he idly doodles as he listens, “regarding the origins of our sparks, that while many ascribe to Primus as our lifegiver, there is another who breathed life into Primus Himself.”
Something twitches at the back of Megatron’s processor.
“And not the Quintessons,” Dreadwing surmises.
“Precisely.” Cyclonus rests his hands on the tabletop, clawed fingers making a light staccato against the scratched surface. “Legend speaks of a primordial pool, a birthing place, from which the Allspark and the multiple matrixes were formed. There’s another being, an omniscient and omnipresent being, who resides over it, granting life to the entirety of the universe.”
Deathsaurus snorts. Megatron resists the urge to echo him, though something in his spark squeezes a bit together.
“That sounds ridiculous,” Dreadwing says.
“We never were able to determine precisely how the Allspark formed or the materials from which it was made,” Quark offers, a light behind his optics as he sits up straight. Their Chief Scientist, Quark’s intellect puts even Shockwave’s to shame. “The brightest minds in Cybertron consistently failed to understand even a tenth of the Allspark’s mysteries.”
“So you are saying there may be truth to the legend,” Optimus suggests.
Quark steeples his fingers together. “I’m saying that while the religious implications are likely ridiculous, there is scientific evidence to suggest the Allspark was created somewhere other than Cybertron.”
“Just what are you implying?” Prowl demands, sounding both bewildered and outraged, mindlessly shuffling his datapads as though they are the only thing that makes sense.
“That it wouldn’t hurt to look.” Quark shrugs as if dismissive, his amber optics cutting to Cyclonus behind his narrow secondary lenses. “I presume your legends speak of a path? A route? A set of coordinates?”
“There are glyphs,” Cyclonus allows with a dip of his head. “Riddles. But yes, a wise mech could follow the clues to the edge of the universe and beyond.”
“I think the word you’re looking for is foolish,” Dreadwing replies with a roll of his optics and an outraged huff. He shifts about in his creaky chair. “We haven’t anyone to spare on a fool’s errand like this. Give me something concrete. Something that makes sense. Not… not sparkling tales and puzzles.”
Quark’s steepled fingers tap together. “It is merely a theory,” he says, his tone too even and calm. “Feel free to dismiss it. Though I don’t suppose I need to remind you we are facing a population crisis.”
“There’s not a mech on this planet who would volunteer for such a stupid mission,” Dreadwing snarls.
That presence within Megatron stirs even further, until he feels as though he is going to suffocate on it. The nudge is consuming and he knows, without having to ask, what it means.
“Then allow me,” he says, his voice cutting through the rising tension, surprising even himself with the offer. He rises to his feet as everyone’s gaze turns toward him. “If this is indeed a fool’s errand, than let me be that fool.”
He could not have caused greater shock than if he’d stood and announced his decision to return them to war. Even Optimus looks surprised, but it’s the wild hurt in Ratchet’s optics which cuts Megatron to the struts.
Ratchet will understand. He has to.
Megatron works his intake, the pressure on his spark easing as he continues, “I have done untold damage to this planet and it’s people. Without me, we would not be in this position. I have much to make up for. Let me take this quest.”
It is dangerous, for all that it is the journey of a fool. Cybertronians are not liked. There are many perils, many planets which consider them wanted criminals. Not every galaxy is kind to metallic beings. The Quintessons lurk in the shadows, waiting to reclaim their lost prizes.
It is a suicide mission. But an important one.
Optimus is the first to speak. “Megatron, I do not think–”
“For once,” Megatron quietly cuts him off, because he doesn’t want to hear whatever protest Optimus has to give, “Will you trust me, brother? Will you let me fix what I have broken?”
Silence reigns as their optics meet, a wealth of conversations passing between them. If only they could have spoken like this back then, perhaps they could have averted war.
Optimus’ head dips. A nod. Assent.
“Cybertron would be better off without me at any rate,” Megatron says, tearing his gaze from his brother and pointedly skipping over Ratchet, whose glare he can feel burrowing at him. “Perhaps more of our people will return if I am not here to give them pause. Thundercracker, Dreadwing, and Deathsaurus are all far more loved and would lead well in my place.”
Deathsaurus shifts, his multiple optics blinking in odd succession. “Not that I’m doubting your intentions, sir,” he begins cautiously, “but do you think it’s a good idea?”
“I think it is necessary,” Megatron replies. The tight bands around his spark feel less like an impetus now, and more like approval. “I’ll take a small team with me. Volunteers especially. There is a chance we might not return. I don’t want anyone to take that risk who isn’t fully committed.”
Optimus frowns. “I do not like the idea of you journeying to your death.”
“Then think of it as a beginning.” Megatron smiles, crooked though it is. To think, there was once a time Optimus would have been relieved to hear of his demise. “I’ll return with hope for our species, brother. Or I’ll not return at all.”
There are more debates, more arguments, more reasons why it’s a terrible idea and why they really have little choice otherwise. Something must be done, and this is the most concrete, if not foolhardy, avenue available to them.
By the time the meeting adjourns, the protestors have fallen silent and Megatron is left with a mission. Arrangements will need to be made, but Megatron is certain that before the solar year’s end, he’ll be on his way, back out among the stars.
The real battle, he knows, has yet to begin.
The various members of Cybertron’s command staff filter in all directions, back to their duties. Megatron is one of the last to leave the meeting hall, after exchanging a few short words with his brother, and the broil of discontent waiting for him is more than enough to give Megatron pause.
There is a moment where he thinks to escape out the back entrance – he can shimmy down the emergency exit if he must. But no. There is no fleeing this confrontation.
Ratchet’s field is a storm of anger, one belied by the flat expression on his face. Megatron is no fool. He knows that a calm Ratchet is a furious Ratchet, and one to be feared.
“I am so happy to see that we’ve reached the point in our relationship where I assume you can read my mind,” Ratchet starts with a tart tone, just shy of a snarl. “Since you decided without me you were going to do this.”
Megatron’s hands curl into fists. He won’t patronize Ratchet by pulling his partner into his arms, despite how much he wants to. “I had no idea I was going to volunteer until I’d spoken,” he replies honestly. “But this is something I must do. I can’t explain how I know this, only that I do.”
Ratchet scoffs, and his optics flash, bright with hurt. “Right,” he sneers. “Because Primus told you to.” Plating creaks as his armor draws taut against his frame. “If you think I’m going to wait for you, then you’re an even bigger idiot than I thought. I’m done waiting for mechs to come back from the battlefield.”
Megatron’s spark starts to hammer in his chassis. A ripple of anxiety tears through his field, but it’s too late, the request tumbles out of his mouth before he can stop it.
“Come with me.”
Ratchet visibly staggers. “W-what?” he splutters.
His vents catch in his intake. Megatron drops to a knee and reaches for Ratchet’s hand, pleased when the medic allows him to take it. He presses his lips to Ratchet’s fingers, these miracle-working hands.
“Come with me,” he asks again, ex-venting warm over Ratchet’s fingers, the hope rising inside of him like a tide. “Into the unknown. Take this quest with me. Please.”
Ratchet’s fingers shake. “I… Megatron, I can’t,” he protests, but it sounds weak, like he’s considering the frantic request. “I have too much to do.”
Megatron shutters his optics, focuses on the wavering in Ratchet’s field, the press of his lips against Ratchet’s fingers. “You don’t. First Aid is more than capable of taking over. And you said you want to retire.”
“This doesn’t count as retiring!”
“It is. Only it’s not lazing around in the berth on a weekend morning. It’s adventure and hope.” He presses his cheek into Ratchet’s palm, projecting affection and promise into his field. “You have fire in your spark, Ratchet. You’d never settle for a future of peace and quiet.”
Ratchet’s fingers curl against his cheek. “If I say no, you’ll go without me, won’t you?” he asks quietly, on the end of an ex-vent.
“Yes.” Megatron’s voice crackles with the admission. “If I were to explain it, you wouldn’t understand. But I must do this because I know I’ll succeed.”
“Then who am I to argue with a god?”
Megatron’s surprise is etched on his face as he looks up at Ratchet, reading his shaky smile for assent. “I’m no deity.”
“That’s not what I meant.” Ratchet’s thumb strokes over the bridge of Megatron’s nasal structure, an unexpectedly endearing touch. “I’ll go.”
“You’re certain?” Megatron dares rise to his feet, and is relieved when Ratchet’s field reaches for him.
“Yes. Primus, save me, but I’ll go.” Ratchet slides into Megatron’s embrace, holding him tight. “I love you, foolish spark and all. I don’t intend to be some pining wife sitting at home waiting for her husband to come back from the war either.”
Megatron laughs, as shaky and uneven as it sounds. “You spent too much time on Earth.”
“So you keep telling me.” Ratchet’s head rests on Megatron’s chestplate, over the frenetic beat of his spark. “I’m proud of you, Megatron. For doing this. The kids aren’t going to like it, but they’ll get over it. I think it’s time we leave Cybertron for the new generation.”
Megatron strokes his fingers down Ratchet’s back, tracing seams and juts of kibble he’s come to learn all too well. “As do I. We’ll return victorious with a future for them. I believe it.”
It’s about time he believed in something.
Opinions are torn across the planet.
Some think Megatron is on a fool’s errand, fleeing from the consequences of his actions because he can’t face the ruin he’s wrought. Others are hopeful, proud he’s taken the initiative to solve one of his greatest mistakes.
Megatron ignores the commentary.
A ship is chosen from the fleet of dilapidated space-faring vessels parked in an abandoned lot outside the main city. It is repaired, outfitted with the most advanced technology their species has to offer, and stocked as much as it is capable of carrying with energon, ammunition, and other necessary supplies.
Megatron even has a crew, entirely made of volunteers. He’d been surprised by how many had offered to go on the quest, and had to narrow it down to a half-dozen mechs, not including himself and Ratchet.
A departure date is set, and as it grows closer, Megatron feels an excitement and an energy building inside of him like nothing else. He can’t explain why he believes he’ll succeed, he just knows it.
In the end, he leaves Deathsaurus in charge, with Dreadwing and Thundercracker to assist. At least Thundercracker won’t have to badger Deathsaurus to finish his reports on time, and Prowl seems to like Deathsaurus a fraction of an inch more than he ever approved of Megatron.
He feels as though he’s leaving his planet in good hands. He’s still the Lord High Protector, at least in name, but there’s been talk of making both Prime and Lord High Protector elected positions rather than inherited or appointed. Megatron’s behind that particular idea one-hundred percent and made it a point to say so.
Maybe he’ll still be Lord High Protector when he comes back. Maybe he won’t. Somehow, it’s not as important to him as it used to be. It no longer defines him, not in his entirety at any rate.
In the end, there’s nothing left but to actually go. Megatron feels an excitement like he hasn’t in a long, long time. He wishes he could explain the feeling in his spark, the one which makes him certain he’s going to succeed, but he can’t.
This is it, he tells himself. This will be my legacy.
Departure day dawns, and there’s one more task left. Megatron excuses himself from the flurry of last-minute preparations – always a flurry, like they haven’t known this is coming for months – and makes straight for the memorial.
It’s so large now they’ve built up and around and behind and under it. The building barely resembles the one he’d crafted by hand anymore, but the main entrance still leads straight into the original structure. The spark of the building, so to speak.
His feet take him on a familiar path. He doesn’t have to count rows. He doesn’t have to count steps. His frame knows where to go. His spark always pulls him back here, to his first real love, and maybe, his only.
He cares for Ratchet. He does. If pressed, he would say he loves Ratchet. There’s a comfort there. A familiarity. He might not burn for Ratchet the way he’s always burned for Sunstreaker, but then, you never forget your first love.
Megatron finds Sunstreaker’s plaque with ease, still as shiny as the day he first set it into the burnished metal. Someone else will have to keep up the maintenance on it, Sideswipe perhaps.
He rests his palm over the plaque, fingers splayed, feels the chill of the metal against his derma. He offlines his optics, cycles a ventilation in and out, feels his spark spin into a tight ball within his chassis. It shouldn’t be so hard. He hasn’t held Sunstreaker in centuries, millennia even.
He still feels as though he’s saying goodbye all over again, standing over Sunstreaker’s gray frame in the silence of the battle’s aftermath, the weight of his choices sitting like a burden across his shoulders. He still remembers the stench of it, the cut of each wound, the splashes of energon. His spark aches as though it were yesterday, though that ache has dulled a little, except the moments where it rises up to swallow him, there in the dead of night.
He worries he’s going to forget. He worries the dullness of that ache means he might someday forget how he felt about Sunstreaker.
Frantically, he clings to it, that agony. He doesn’t want to lose Sunstreaker, Not this piece of him. It’s all he has left, the pain.
He’s always with me, Ratchet had said, with a soft, sad smile, a grieving one, but a hopeful one as well. Even without him, I’m never alone.
Megatron’s vents turn shuddery. He cycles them in and out, his fingers curling against the cold metal of Sunstreaker’s plaque. The pain only leads to bitterness, he tells himself. It’ll fester.
He has to let it heal. He must.
Sunstreaker will always be with him. He won’t forget. It’s impossible. Sunstreaker is written on his spark, down to the very core of it.
Slowly, achingly slowly, Megatron loosens his grip. He tells himself it’s not Primus urging him toward the fringes of the universe, it’s Sunstreaker, giving him one last chance at hope.
And it’s enough to convince him to surrender the rest, to withdraw with a parting burst of love in his spark.
Megatron turns to go, his fingers lingering, only to startle when he realizes he’s not alone. Sideswipe stands at the end of the corridor, his expression unreadable, but his posture non-threatening. Not that he could be, considering how much he’d gone civilian since the war’s end.
He’s not fully silver anymore. He’s a shade of red that perfectly complements the red in Optimus’ paint with silver only there for accents. And, if Megatron looks close enough, some hints of gold. A shout out to his brother perhaps.
“You really did love him,” Sideswipe says quietly.
Megatron works his intake. “Yes.” He withdraws his hand, fingers curling into fists.
Sideswipe’s gaze flicks past him, to his brother’s plaque. Something in his expression softens. “I’m glad,” he says. “Sunny deserved love.” Emotion flickers into his optics: grief and sadness, the first Megatron’s seen of it.
If there’s regret, Megatron can’t tell. But maybe that’s just because he’s still so very bitter.
For some reason, he feels compelled to soothe Sideswipe. For his own sake, maybe. “He didn’t hate you,” Megatron replies, because he knows it to be true. Sunstreaker had never hated Sideswipe, not like Megatron had hated Optimus.
Sideswipe laughs, but it’s not amused. “Oh, I doubt that very much.”
“Love and hate, they are two sides of the same coin,” Megatron replies as he moves away from Sunstreaker’s plaque, toward the end of the corridor. He feels too vulnerable here, as though he’s laid bare his spark and let someone intrude on it. “Believe me, I know.”
“Yeah, I guess you do.” Sideswipe frowns, contemplative rather than angry. He tilts his head. “Is that why you’re leaving?”
Megatron shakes his head. “This decision has nothing to do with my brother. It is something that must be done.” He cycles a ventilation. “Look after Optimus for me. He needs it more than you think.”
Sideswipe snorts, armor creaking as he crosses his arms over his chassis. “You don’t even have to ask. He’s mine now. You can’t have him back.”
“Keep him. You’re the one he loves. And vice versa, I’m quite sure.” Megatron tilts his head, that sharp knot in his spark throbbing.
Love. He’d never held it for Optimus. He knows it was bright and fierce for Sunstreaker, but this feeling inside him now, warm and content, he thinks it’s love, too. Just another shade of it.
Sideswipe grins and tilts his chin. “You just make sure you take care of my favorite medic. I’ll be very put out if he doesn’t come back, preferably alive.”
It’s Megatron’s turn to snort. Sideswipe is nothing like his twin. There’s no chance in the universe he can actually follow through with that threat.
“Rest assured, if Ratchet does not return, then neither do I,” he says as he slides past Sideswipe, dismissing the mech from his presence. “I will fight to the last beat of my spark to protect him.”
He leaves Sideswipe on that note. He has nothing left to say to the mech. If Sideswipe knows what’s good for him, he’ll keep Optimus safe as well. He’ll do for his mate what he couldn’t do for his twin.
He’ll love Optimus and care for him and ensure he is happy.
Outside, Ratchet waits for him, his back to the mausoleum, his face turned toward the ship in the distance, ready to set sail into the universe. He turns as he hears Megatron approach, a smile on his face.
“Ready?” he asks.
“Yes.” Megatron slides an arm around Ratchet, soaking in the comforting press of Ratchet’s field. “Do you need a moment?”
Ratchet chuckles and tilts his head against Megatron’s chassis. “No. I’ve said all I need to say. Hide knows my spark.”
‘Knows’ he says. Ratchet tends to speak of Ironhide as though his departed mate is around the corner, watching him with a smile. It’s a cute quirk of his, and one that doesn’t bother Megatron at all.
Sometimes, in his more optimistic moments, he likes to think of Sunstreaker watching from a happier place, a soft smile on his face. Approving.
“So long as you are sure.”
“I am.” Ratchet slides free, but only so he can take Megatron’s hand and tangle their fingers together. He gives him a gentle tug, away from the mausoleum and toward the waiting ship. “Come on. We’ve got work to do.”
Megatron resists. “One moment,” he says, and with a tug, pulls Ratchet back into his arms.
He cups the medic’s face with his hand, presses their foreheads together. He ex-vents slowly, in and out, as Ratchet goes warm and soft against him, a flutter of joy in his field.
“I love you,” Megatron says without ceremony. “Thank you for taking this journey with me.”
Ratchet’s head turns into his palm, nuzzles it. “Home is where you are,” he says quietly, his lips a brush over the soft dermal metal.
Megatron’s spark unfurls within him, the last clench of madness losing its grip on him. He doesn’t know what the future is going to bring, but he knows there’s hope in it, something of which he once could have never dreamed.
Even knowing he’s about to leave Cybertron, undertaking a perilous journey into a great unknown, Megatron knows one thing for certain.
He’s home at last.