[TFP] Ask Nicely

Arcee was a menace.

And Knock Out would be sure to tell her so the moment his mouth was no longer occupied with her spike. Which, by the way, kept nudging at the back of his intake and seeping pre-fluid over his glossa.

Her hand cradled his helm, keeping him in place. Her thumb teased his finials, sending shocks of pleasure down his spinal strut.

“This, I think, is the best use for that smart mouth of yours,” she purred.

“Mmph.” His outrage was both muffled and buried under another wave of arousal as she rolled her hips forward, her spike gliding across his glossa.

Arcee chuckled. “You don’t agree?” She looked down at him and withdrew her spike, curling her hand around it so that she could paint his lips with the tip. “Or maybe you want something else?”

“Yes. A little attention for once,” Knock Out retorted, rolling his frame toward her, and specifically his hips. Not that he had much room to move, given the shackles keeping his wrists bound behind his back and to the back of the chair.

Her pre-fluid was sticky on his lips. He licked it away.

“Is that so?” Arcee stepped back and dropped down, straddling his lap. Her spike poked at his belly, leaving a swipe of fluid on his freshly polished armor. She did so love marking him. “Then ask me nicely.”

A menace. Clear and simple.

Knock Out twitched against the chair. His ankle-struts had been bound to the legs of the chair, forcing his knees spread wide, baring his array. His valve pulsed longingly. Every puff of air teased his swollen rim. There was a growing puddle beneath his aft. His spike throbbed behind his panel.

Argh.

“Please,” he gritted out, never one to submit gracefully. That sounded too much like giving Arcee what she wanted. And Knock Out was not an obedient pet.

Unless he wanted to be.

“Can I have your spike?” Knock Out demanded.

“Mmm. No.” Arcee draped her arms over his shoulders, her long fingers teasing into the rims of his upper tires. “That greedy valve of yours definitely hasn’t earned it.”

Knock Out heard a click before he felt lubricant drip onto his spike panel. It was searing hot, such a tease. His vents stuttered. His spike throbbed harder.

“But maybe if you satisfy mine, I’ll play with yours.” Arcee rolled her hips again, grinding her spike against his ventrum, the heat of her valve such a tease above his spike panel.

Knock Out shivered and tugged at his bonds. They didn’t budge. “Menace,” he hissed.

Arcee hummed a laugh. “Maybe I am. Now give me your spike.”

Knock Out’s panel snicked aside, frame hastening to obey. He wasn’t even ashamed anymore, and especially not when Arcee immediately moved to sink down over him, swallowing his spike in one fell swoop.

His engine roared, threatening to kick into overheat.

Damn menace was what she was. Right down to the smirk on her lips. And the squeeze-clench-grip of her valve.

Guh.

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[G1] Personal Show

There was something intensely arousing about watching Skyfire’s fingers plunge into his own valve.

Perhaps it was the wet squelch of lubricant. The low hum of pleasure in Skyfire’s intake. Or the way his hips rolled, his engine purred, and his thighs trembled, the berth beneath his aft soaked with fluids.

Ratchet couldn’t look away. His own systems heated, spike pinging, and desire sending a surge through his lines.

He watched, avid, as Skyfire cupped his own array, shoving his thick fingers deeper. He shivered, armor lifting away from his substructure, his biolights pulsing.

“Tell me what you’re thinking of?” Ratchet asked as he licked his lips.

Skyfire looked down at him, all smiles and soft heat. “You,” he said, “putting your mouth to work. Here.”

His fingers slid free and dragged over the swollen rim of his valve, painting it in lubricant. They glistened in the overhead light.

“That is, if you’re so inclined,” Skyfire purred.

Ratchet’s hands smoothed up Skyfire’s thighs, even as Skyfire pinched his own anterior node, making his engine rev.

“If you overload yourself, I’ll lick you clean,” Ratchet promised. He licked his lips again, imagining the heat and taste of him, the aftermath of a glorious pleasure.

Skyfire groaned and scrubbed the heel of his palm across his array. “Deal.”

[IDW] Walking the Wire 05

“You seem to like Turpentine, so we’ll stick with that,” Ratchet said as he circled around Megatron, his pace slow and careful. Predatory.

He held the flog in one hand. The tip of it tapped lightly against the side of his leg. It made a barely audible sound, but he noticed Megatron’s hands clench and unclench to the slow rhythm.

Megatron was large, so Ratchet had him on his knees, a foam mat beneath for his comfort. He wasn’t here to punish Megatron. They were here to explore. He wanted Megatron as comfortable as possible, all else considered.

“Unless you want something else,” Ratchet added.

Megatron shook his head. He was staring at the floor, not meeting Ratchet’s gaze, but his glossa ran over his lips.

“Turpentine will do,” he said. His vents briefly rattled.

“And you will use it,” Ratchet said. He stood behind Megatron, and the tip of the flog touched Megatron’s aft. Not a strike, just a caress.

Nevertheless, a shudder ran across Megatron’s armor in a wave of shiny, gray metal. His engine rumbled, not with distress at least.

“I will use it,” Megatron said. His hands curled again.

His wrists were bound. They lay in his lap, fingers tangled together. Ratchet finally found a use for the magnacuffs. A small chain connected the cuffs to a metal loop Ratchet had welded into the floor. It wasn’t strong enough to restrain an actual prisoner. It would only stop Megatron from swinging at Ratchet in a blind panic. The tug was a reminder.

“I believe you.” Ratchet paced around Megatron again, tapping the flog against his side. His field slipped out, tasting Megatron’s.

There was anticipation there. A hot, thready line of arousal beneath. A wisp of anxiety, too. That came as no surprise. Trying a new kink for the first time always came with a special brand of disquiet.

“I am going to ask you a question, and you will answer honestly,” Ratchet said. He reached out with the flog, gliding the tip of it gently along Megatron’s armor, letting him feel sensation, like a tickle.

Megatron shivered. “Yes.”

Not even a fight, an argument, a sarcastic retort. Just agreement.

Primus, he was good at this.

Ratchet moved behind Megatron, stroking the tip of the flog up and down Megatron’s spinal strut, a light touch was sure to excite each and every node on his sensory net. Priming him, so to speak, for the harsher strikes to come.

“I will strike your back,” Ratchet said, keeping his tone to a careful cadence, one Megatron seemed to track. “I will strike your aft. Your thighs. Is there any part you wish for me to avoid?”

Megatron ventilated, the sound of it off-rhythm and shuddering. “No.”

“You’re sure?” Ratchet lightly dragged the tip of the flog over Megatron’s back, down his spinal strut, to his hips and then over his aft. “If you change your mind, you know what to say.”

“Turpentine,” Megatron breathed, and his armor flexed, seams lengthening, giving Ratchet peeks at the cables beneath, and the charge crawling through them. Heat puffed off Megatron in growing waves.

“That’s right.”

Ratchet rested the flog against Megatron’s aft, the flat of it measured against an armor plate.

“Hold still.”

A low sound rose out of Megatron’s intake. Not quite a whimper, nor a moan, it still fed arousal into Ratchet’s systems. Made him lick his lips as heat flushed his lines.

He tightened his grip on the flog, making the supple, organic material whisper a creak. And then he flicked his hand back and struck.

Schwip!

The flog snapped against Megatron’s armor, sharp and quick, the blow meant more to startle than hurt. Megatron jerked, but otherwise made no noise.

Ratchet patiently waited, dragging the tip of the flog up and down Megatron’s back. Part of the play was in the anticipation, in letting the sub imagine when the next blow would come.

The warm up was the easiest. Ratchet fell into a rhythm, a pattern, light strikes up and down Megatron’s back and aft and thighs. He knew they didn’t hurt. He’d measured his strength on purpose. It was all meant to sensitize.

Megatron started moving in place, rocking on his knees, arching into each blow. His ventilations quickened. His field stuttered and sang, reaching out for Ratchet. Otherwise, he didn’t make a sound.

At least, not until Ratchet’s next strike crossed over three others, firmer than before. A noise squeaked out of Megatron’s intake. He sucked air through his denta.

Ratchet paused, listening, waiting for a request to wait, to stop, for the one word that would have him throw the flog aside.

“Don’t,” Megatron said, ventilations haggard, his shoulders drifting down, armor seams gaping even further. “Don’t stop.”

Ratchet teased Megatron with his field, dragging swirls of it along Megatron’s armor, leaving heat in its wake. “Be still,” he repeated.

He struck again.

And again.

Crisscrossing his earlier marks. Harder strikes over areas of armor he had yet to touch. Lighter taps against those bared cables, enough to make Megatron jerk and audibly moan, for the chains to rattle, for him to surge back toward Ratchet in silent request. There was a click and the scent of lubricant filled the air.

Ratchet need only look, to see Megatron’s valve had bared itself. But not, curiously, his spike. He imagined Megatron was swollen, folds dripping, nodes blinking to the same tune as his biolights, desperate for a touch.

He swung, the flog snapping against Megatron’s aft, square in the center of three other marks, and Megatron’s backstrut arched. He groaned, long and low, charge crawling over his armor. His field burst with hunger, with pain and pleasure mixed, and the air throbbed with it.

Ratchet swallowed thickly, his ventilations quickening. “More?” he asked as he lightly tapped the flog over every bared seam, little flicks that barely qualified as pain.

He heard nothing but the rasp of Megatron’s ventilations. The creak of his armor.

“Megatron?”

Worry crept in. He hadn’t got a response, and Megatron had hunched inward, dragging in gasping breaths from his mouth. His field still rang, hot and heavy with need, and lubricant pooled beneath his aft.

Ratchet leaned closer. “Megatron?” he repeated, a bit more firmly this time, and then he rested his free hand between Megatron’s shoulders, and against the base of Megatron’s neck.

He meant to calm, to ground Megatron with the gentle touch. He was unprepared for the way Megatron abruptly snapped upright, his wrists tugging harsh on the chain and snapping it free of the loop in an instant. His optics went coal-fire crimson, and a sound, a guttural, terrifying sound yanked out of his intake.

Ratchet hurriedly danced back, fearing a wild swing. Megatron’s field lashed out, but he did not. Terror and panic sliced razor-sharp through the air. Megatron tucked his wrists against his abdomen; he sucked air through his denta. He panted as though he’d been sent through a wringer, and then he spoke, and Ratchet almost couldn’t believe his audials.

“Turpentine,” he whispered, with the air of someone who’d been defeated.

Ratchet’s spark ached at the sight. He tossed the flog away, pointedly making it clatter as it struck the cabinet door. He wanted Megatron to audibly understand Ratchet had set it aside before he perceived it as a weapon.

“It’s okay,” Ratchet said, careful to keep his voice low. He crept around until he stood in front of Megatron, keeping his hands in view. “The flog is gone.”

Megatron drew in a deep, heavy breath. His armor clamped so tightly, Ratchet feared he’d overheat. “It was not… the flog,” he admitted, and his optics shuttered, his face turning away from Ratchet as if ashamed.

“All right.” Ratchet slipped to his knees, inching closer. “Do you want me to take off the cuffs?”

“It wasn’t them either.” But Megatron offered his wrists, and Ratchet removed the cuffs, tossing them far away as well.

Ratchet rested his hands over Megatron’s, pulling them close so he could examine Megatron’s wrists for damage. There was some minor scratching to his paint, but nothing that wouldn’t be gone soon.

“My neck,” Megatron said after a moment, and his shoulders hunched further. It had the effect of making him seem smaller, fragile. “You asked me if I had any hard stops, and I must insist from now on, that you don’t touch my neck.”

“Done.”

Megatron looked up at him, and suddenly, he looked centuries younger. There was surprise in his face, and vulnerability, too. “That easily?”

“Of course.” Ratchet inched closer, until their knees touched. He was too old to be on the floor like this, but the taste of that terror in Megatron’s field still had his own spark pounding in his chassis. “Trust and respect, remember?”

Megatron stared at him, seeing without seeing. A shiver started up in his armor, barely loosening the plates from their tight clamp.

“You don’t even have to tell me why. That’s not important. Unless you want to talk about it, I mean.” Though Ratchet had his suspicions, given what Chromedome had told him about Megatron’s reaction when Optimus offered his services. “I respect your boundary. You trust that I’ll keep it.”

“I see.” Megatron’s lips curved downward, not quite a frown, more an expression of someone who found a concept difficult to understand.

Ratchet stroked Megatron’s wrists. “Just your neck?” he prompted. “Was there anything else I should avoid in the future?”

Megatron shook his head. “I… enjoyed the pain,” he admitted and his gaze slunk away, shame bleeding into the edges of a field already choppy with other emotions. “Until that point, to clarify.”

“Are you sure? There was a moment you were unresponsive.” Ratchet squeezed Megatron’s wrists and tucked his hands back against his lap. He rose, keeping his movements slow and careful. “I’m just going to check the marks on your back.”

“It was intense. Surprisingly so,” Megatron said. “I was unprepared for the conflict in my dermal net, where I recognized I was receiving pain, but it kept turning into liquid splashes of pleasure through my sensory lines.”

The honesty was refreshing, Ratchet had to admit. He continued to telegraph his movements as he moved behind Megatron, examining the welts and marks in Megatron’s armor. Nothing had cut deeply. There were a few inflamed areas, but a night of recharge should soothe those over.

It was a textbook flogging. Ratchet hadn’t lost his touch.

“I would not be averse to experiencing it again,” Megatron added. “Only without the panic.”

“I will not touch your neck like that again,” Ratchet promised. He rested his hands gently on Megaron’s shoulders, closer to his arms than his clavicle. “Come on. Let’s get you up and into the berth.”

Confusion fluttered in Megatron’s field. “We’re done? But I thought–”

“Sometimes, partners can continue after a safe word has been spoken. It depends on the circumstances. I don’t think it’s a good idea right now,” Ratchet said. “You might disagree, but you’re not the only one who gets to say ‘no’.”

Megatron shook his head and slowly, like he had to remember how to work his limbs, climbed to his feet. He wavered unsteadily, and Ratchet gripped his elbow to keep him upright.

“I don’t disagree.”

“Good.” Ratchet carefully pulled Megatron to the berth and helped him climb on top of it.

Megatron’s limbs didn’t seem to want to obey him, which wasn’t uncommon when a session like that was disrupted in such a way. No doubt Megatron’s synapses were still operating in a state of confusion. He flopped onto the berth, onto his belly – protecting his spark, Ratchet noticed. He took an obnoxious amount of space as he usually did.

Ratchet shifted away, intending to grab a few things, but Megatron’s hand snapped out, fingers coiling around his wrist. “Where are you going?” he asked, and he might have meant it as a demand, but it came out plaintive instead.

Ratchet cursed himself. He should have known better.

“Nowhere.” He modulated his vocals to be soothing.

The mess could keep. He’d tidy in the morning. The lights could be dimmed remotely, and it wouldn’t hurt the flog or cuffs to sit on the ground. If anyone barged in and got an opticful, they deserved it.

Ratchet climbed onto the berth, though he was far too keyed up to recharge now, and quickly found himself with a blanket of former warlord. Megatron tucked himself up against Ratchet’s side, pillowing his head on Ratchet’s chassis, slinging a leg over Ratchet’s. Trapping him in place.

Ratchet froze. This was… well, this was quite intimate. Normally, when they ended up sharing a berth, it was in whatever exhausted position they flopped into after a night of endless fragging. Or they lay back to back as though they were two soldiers guarding one another in a foxhole.

“I have shift in the morning,” Megatron murmured against his chassis, ex-vents leaving a brief fog over Ratchet’s windshield.

“I’ll wake you,” Ratchet promised. His free arm – the other was trapped beneath Megatron’s bulk – curved over Megatron’s chassis. He stroked gray plating, and felt Megatron relax beneath his touch.

His field clung to Ratchet’s like a limpet’s, however, and seemed determined to match him, pulse for pulse, as if Megatron found solid ground in Ratchet. Megatron vented out, his hand hooked on Ratchet’s side.

Ratchet kept petting him, his thoughts a whirl. That had not gone as he’d expected. He’d assumed Megatron would treat tonight’s session like he had all the others – with a certain measure of condescension. Instead, he’d fully surrendered to it, and then, used his safe word.

That was probably what had surprised Ratchet the most.

Now he had a vulnerable murderous warlord cuddling him for comfort, and Ratchet’s spark was doing queer things in his chassis. Things like affection which had no place here in a relationship that wasn’t.

Megatron trusted him to abide by the safe word. Megatron trustedhe wouldn’t overstep this important boundary in the future.

Megatron trusted him.

Guilt clawed out of the pit of Ratchet’s tank and settled in his spark, pulsing ice through his lines. It took effort to keep it out of his field so Megatron wouldn’t detect it.

He’d lectured Megatron over and over about the importance of trust, and here he was, lying to Megatron. A lie by omission perhaps, but still a lie. He let Megatron believe the fool’s energon kept him weak and pliant. He fed the foul mixture to Megatron every day. He lied, over and over, and he’d have to continue to lie.

Optimus’ orders were absolute, no matter how Ratchet disagreed with them. Optimus was right. Megatron was a threat. Megatron was dangerous. But perhaps he was sincere about changing. This was his opportunity to do so.

How would he react to know the fool’s energon was a farce?

How could Ratchet be such a hypocrite?

But he couldn’t tell Megatron the truth. Not without both defying Optimus and potentially putting the crew’s life in jeopardy.

He couldn’t keep lying either. Not to someone who shared his berth. Especially not to someone he was now engaging in domination and submission play with. It was a matter of trust. Megatron trusted him, and Ratchet betrayed that trust every time he handed over a cube of Fool’s Energon.

More than that, how could he in good conscience, continue a relationship with a mech he was required to lie to? How could he be with someone he didn’t trust in turn? Ratchet wanted to believe in Megatron, but the rational side of him was certain Megatron’s motivations were suspect, and his presence on the Lost Light was all part of some larger plan.

It was a moral quandary of the worst sort.

It meant Ratchet had to make a decision. He wasn’t sure where to even start. He needed an outside opinion. Someone else’s advice.

There was only one person on the ship he trusted to be discreet.

It would have to be Rung.

~

Megatron was gone when Ratchet awoke in the morning. He wasn’t sure which was more surprising, that Megatron had crept out or Ratchet hadn’t even noticed. Then again, he’d said he had a morning shift, so perhaps it wasn’t embarrassment or shame that had him pulling a disappearing act.

Ratchet leveraged himself out of the berth feeling the years and the mileage on his creaking frame. He downed both coolant and energon in equal measures. He had to be on shift soon, too, but he had enough time to visit Rung, if Rung had time for him anyway.

He did.

“Ratchet, what a pleasant surprise,” Rung said as he gestured for Ratchet to come inside.

Coming to visit Rung was always like coming home. Rung’s field was full of warm acceptance, and it greeted Ratchet’s with a bump of affection. There was nothing angry about Rung, nothing difficult. He was uncomplicated, and he was one of Ratchet’s oldest friends, especially to have survived the war.

“Though I take it this isn’t a social call?”

Ratchet grunted. “No, but I really should do that more often.” He slung his arm over Rung’s shoulders and tugged the small therapist into a side-embrace. “Though from what I hear, you don’t want for visitors.”

Rung’s field blushed like a coy untouched, but Ratchet knew good and well there was fire and steel beneath it. “I have my fair share,” he said as he returned the embrace. “Though I hear rumor you do as well.”

“I should have known I couldn’t keep a secret from you.” Ratchet dropped down into the patient couch, his backstrut aching. He sprawled his arms across the back of it, tipping his head to look at the ceiling. “I need advice.”

“So I gathered.” Rung sat behind his desk and placed his elbows on top, lacing his fingers together. “Of a personal sort then. You’ve taken a rather controversial lover, I hear.”

Ratchet snorted. “Controversial,” he repeated. “That’s a delicate way of putting it.” He shuttered his optics and cycled a loud, full vent. “I am in over my head, Rung.”

“It happens to the best of us. What can I do for you, Ratchet?” Rung, at least, didn’t seem to judge Ratchet for his poor decision-making when it came to interface partners.

He should have just taken Bluestreak up on the offer the sniper made when he first came onto the ship. But like didn’t necessarily call to like, and Ratchet knew he and Blue would end up where they’d always been – grating against each other, one dom to another. He adored Bluestreak, he truly did. But it wasn’t a relationship that could last longer than an intermittent night or two.

“I need you to tell me the truth.” Ratchet palmed his face. “The truth I don’t want to hear.”

“All right.” He heard Rung cycle a long ventilation, felt the gentle wave of his field. “If you want to continue as you are, you have to tell Megatron the truth.”

Damn it.

“I can’t do that!” Ratchet snapped and jerked upright, directing a glare at one of his oldest friends. “I have orders.”

“We’re no longer at war, Ratchet. Your orders are whatever you accept them to be.” Rung’s voice was quiet, but there was chastisement in it. He leaned back, removing his glasses to clean them. It was an action that appeared nonchalant, but Ratchet knew better.

“But that’s not what has you drowning in guilt, is it?”

Ratchet chewed on the inside of his cheek. “Controversial,” he said, and it was with a ragged ventilation. “The moment I realize something deeper is growing, I realize exactly who I’ve invited into my berth.”

“And you think it’s a betrayal.”

“How can it not be?” Ratchet rocketed to his feet and started to pace, his spark whirling and churning in his chamber. “This would be the time most people say ‘I’ve lost count of how many mechs died’ but I haven’t! I can tell you their names, all the Autobots who died in my medbay because of Megatron’s war. How am I not betraying their memory?”

“That is the question, isn’t it?” Rung’s tone was mild. “Do you feel Megatron is insincere?”

It was the very same question he had asked himself before.

Ratchet rubbed at his forehead with two fingers. “I don’t know.”

“Then ask yourself this: if he were sincere, would it still feel like a betrayal?”

Ratchet skidded to a halt, his heels clicking together. “No,” he admitted, and vented a sigh. “And yes.”

Wanting to change now didn’t excuse his behavior in the past. Working to create a better future was a good start, so long as he was sincere. If Megatron was sincere, then yes, some of the guilt would ease. Ratchet would find it a lot easier to forgive himself. Maybe he wouldn’t dream about the dead haunting him.

He could point out, ‘look, wars aren’t won by victory, but by forgiveness after defeat’. It was all well and good to say the Decepticons were defeated, but if nothing changed, they’d eventually end up back where they were. And Ratchet was tired.

None of that mattered, however, because Ratchet couldn’t be certain of Megatron’s motivations. He could ask, but he couldn’t trust the answer he’d get. He wanted to. Oh, it would be so much simpler if he could take everything Megatron said and did at face value.

He had centuries of war behind him as proof that with Megatron, nothing was ever as it seemed.

“Do you think his feelings for you are sincere?” Rung asked, the soft query somehow feeling like a punch to the abdomen, for all the reality it delivered.

Ratchet hadn’t even considered that. He’d been so consumed by whether or not Megatron was going to betray the Autobots and the Lost Light, he’d not spared a thought as to whether or not Megatron would betray him.

Realization poured over him like a spray of liquid nitrogen. He’d never considered that a concern. In the long run, Ratchet was worthless to any plan Megatron might have. He’d never betray Optimus, he wasn’t a bargaining chip, and he wouldn’t join the Decepticons for any reason. There was no logical ground for Megatron to begin a relationship with Ratchet save for the obvious one.

He wanted to.

And Ratchet, frag himself to the Pit and back, wanted Megatron, too. He even trusted the former warlord and mass murderer’s feelings for him. He believed Megatron was sincere about that much.

It floored him.

It made him sway, dizzily, and Ratchet had to catch himself.

“Ratchet?” Rung sounded worried. There was a hiss of ancient hydraulics as he rose, perhaps intending to circle around the desk.

“It never occurred to me to think otherwise,” Ratchet said, barely above a whisper. He looked up at one of his oldest, dearest friends. “He’s with me because he wants to be. And I’m with him…”

“Because you want to be,” Rung finished for him, the smallest of smiles on his lips. Tension eased out of his frame, the concern in his field stroking gently over Ratchet’s, soothing him.

Ratchet dragged a hand down his face. “That… it’s just… it only makes the decision harder.”

“Does it?”

Ratchet’s shoulders sagged. He dropped his hands. “No.” He slumped back into the couch, head tipping back.

Rung circled around the desk and sat next to him, resting a hand on his thigh. “You already know what you need to do.”

Sadly, he did.

Ratchet curled an arm over Rung’s shoulders, tucking the therapist against him. “Why couldn’t I have fallen for you?” he sighed, a purely rhetorical question, of course.

Rung chuckled and patted him on the thigh. “Because I’m not the kind of challenge you need.”

“Would be easier if you were,” he muttered, and let himself soak in Rung’s stabilizing field. A thought occurred to him. “Though you know, Bluestreak–”

“Hush you little matchmaking busybody. I’m perfectly capable of finding a berthmate on my own.” Rung sounded amused at least. “Besides, he was my patient for far too long.”

“Just saying.” Ratchet grinned and shuttered his optics, drawing on Rung’s field to give him the courage he needed, to do what he had to do.

It was why he’d come here. He trusted Rung to give him the honest answers, even if he didn’t want to hear them.

It was a hard choice, but Ratchet had long been familiar with hard choices.

This part or that part. This injury or that injury. Save the flickering spark, or fix the broken leg so the mech could rejoin the battle. Both of them dying, in the end, because it was war – brutal and bloody and unforgiving.

Ratchet sighed and hid behind his palm.

Curse his conscience.

****

[IDW] Zap

For anyone else, a simple energon prod or electro rod would’ve done the trick. But no. Such things were plebeian for Perceptor.

And Brainstorm loved him for it.

“Stop fidgeting,” Perceptor ordered as he applied the last clamp and tightened it.

Brainstorm swallowed down a moan. “I’m excited,” he said.

“Yes, I can see that,” Perceptor replied in a dry tone as he circled the y-frame where Brainstorm was currently bound and visually checked all the clamps. “Patience has never been your strong suit.”

Brainstorm’s fans spun faster. “No, it’s not. Will you hurry?”

Perceptor tapped on his mask. “Hush.”

Only then did Perceptor turn toward the portable generator perched on a table behind him. Multiple wires connected it to the clamps attached to Brainstorm. No sensitive zone had been left untouched.

Especially not his anterior node cluster, which throbbed eagerly once more.

“We will start slow. A small zap. A taste. And then, perhaps, build to more.”

Brainstorm squirmed. Anticipation slicked his thighs.

“Your words, Brainstorm.”

He wouldn’t need them. Even so, he obediently recited, “Green for go, yellow for wait, red for stop.” Simple but effective.

“Very good,” Perceptor purred, and the sound vibrated straight to Brainstorm’s spark. “Now we can begin.”

He flicked a switch and shocking jolt slashed at Brainstorm’s right knee joint like the nibble of a scraplet. It burned and throbbed, and Brainstorm grunted, a low whine rising in his engine, pleasure even sharper on the heels of pain.

“Be as vocal as you want,” Perceptor murmured. “Remember, this is for science.”

“For science,” Brainstorm echoed on a moan as another jolt nipped at his left hip, lighting his sensornet afire with need.

Anything for science.

[IDW] Too Damn Good

Pain, Ratchet had claimed, was not always about how much something hurt. Sometimes, it was the knife-edge feeling of too damn good.

Megatron hadn’t believed him. Pain came from damage, from despair. It couldn’t come from pleasure.

He was so very wrong.

Megatron growled and gasped a ventilation. His cooling fans spun so fast they screeched. The wrist-cuffs rattled, but kept his hands bound above his head.

His spike throbbed, sending jagged waves of charge through his sensornet. Each dragging pull of Ratchet’s valve over it was an ecstasy Megatron couldn’t keep. Not with the inhibitor ring magnetized to the base, preventing overload.

A release he desperately craved.

He’d been on the edge for what felt like hours. Condensation coated his frame. His groin was a mess of lubricant and transfluid both. Ratchet, after all, had ridden him through two overloads and now ground steadily toward a third, without granting Megatron even one.

Ratchet’s hands were braced on Megatron’s abdomen, bearing his mass, as his hips swiveled and rocked, stirring Megatron’s spike within him.

“Well,” Ratchet demanded as he slammed down again, valve swallowing Megatron and spitting charge at his spike receptors. “Hurt yet?”

It took all Megatron had not to sob. It hurt. It burned. It consumed him in a torrent of pleasure until he didn’t know which way was up.

“Please,” Megatron rasped out. Gone was all trace of defiance.

Ratchet licked his lips, optics bright and unyielding. “Not ‘til I’m done.” His hips impacted faster and faster, louder and louder, his fans whining.

Megatron writhed helplessly, trapped on the edge. His spark pulsed, churning.

He’d asked for Ratchet to break him, to make it hurt. He never expected it would feel like this.

[IDW] Walking the Wire 05

“You seem to like Turpentine, so we’ll stick with that,” Ratchet said as he circled around Megatron, his pace slow and careful. Predatory.

He held the flog in one hand. The tip of it tapped lightly against the side of his leg. It made a barely audible sound, but he noticed Megatron’s hands clench and unclench to the slow rhythm.

Megatron was large, so Ratchet had him on his knees, a foam mat beneath for his comfort. He wasn’t here to punish Megatron. They were here to explore. He wanted Megatron as comfortable as possible, all else considered.

“Unless you want something else,” Ratchet added.

Megatron shook his head. He was staring at the floor, not meeting Ratchet’s gaze, but his glossa ran over his lips.

“Turpentine will do,” he said. His vents briefly rattled.

“And you will use it,” Ratchet said. He stood behind Megatron, and the tip of the flog touched Megatron’s aft. Not a strike, just a caress.

Nevertheless, a shudder ran across Megatron’s armor in a wave of shiny, gray metal. His engine rumbled, not with distress at least.

“I will use it,” Megatron said. His hands curled again.

His wrists were bound. They lay in his lap, fingers tangled together. Ratchet finally found a use for the magnacuffs. A small chain connected the cuffs to a metal loop Ratchet had welded into the floor. It wasn’t strong enough to restrain an actual prisoner. It would only stop Megatron from swinging at Ratchet in a blind panic. The tug was a reminder.

“I believe you.” Ratchet paced around Megatron again, tapping the flog against his side. His field slipped out, tasting Megatron’s.

There was anticipation there. A hot, thready line of arousal beneath. A wisp of anxiety, too. That came as no surprise. Trying a new kink for the first time always came with a special brand of disquiet.

“I am going to ask you a question, and you will answer honestly,” Ratchet said. He reached out with the flog, gliding the tip of it gently along Megatron’s armor, letting him feel sensation, like a tickle.

Megatron shivered. “Yes.”

Not even a fight, an argument, a sarcastic retort. Just agreement.

Primus, he was good at this.

Ratchet moved behind Megatron, stroking the tip of the flog up and down Megatron’s spinal strut, a light touch was sure to excite each and every node on his sensory net. Priming him, so to speak, for the harsher strikes to come.

“I will strike your back,” Ratchet said, keeping his tone to a careful cadence, one Megatron seemed to track. “I will strike your aft. Your thighs. Is there any part you wish for me to avoid?”

Megatron ventilated, the sound of it off-rhythm and shuddering. “No.”

“You’re sure?” Ratchet lightly dragged the tip of the flog over Megatron’s back, down his spinal strut, to his hips and then over his aft. “If you change your mind, you know what to say.”

“Turpentine,” Megatron breathed, and his armor flexed, seams lengthening, giving Ratchet peeks at the cables beneath, and the charge crawling through them. Heat puffed off Megatron in growing waves.

“That’s right.”

Ratchet rested the flog against Megatron’s aft, the flat of it measured against an armor plate.

“Hold still.”

A low sound rose out of Megatron’s intake. Not quite a whimper, nor a moan, it still fed arousal into Ratchet’s systems. Made him lick his lips as heat flushed his lines.

He tightened his grip on the flog, making the supple, organic material whisper a creak. And then he flicked his hand back and struck.

Schwip!

The flog snapped against Megatron’s armor, sharp and quick, the blow meant more to startle than hurt. Megatron jerked, but otherwise made no noise.

Ratchet patiently waited, dragging the tip of the flog up and down Megatron’s back. Part of the play was in the anticipation, in letting the sub imagine when the next blow would come.

The warm up was the easiest. Ratchet fell into a rhythm, a pattern, light strikes up and down Megatron’s back and aft and thighs. He knew they didn’t hurt. He’d measured his strength on purpose. It was all meant to sensitize.

Megatron started moving in place, rocking on his knees, arching into each blow. His ventilations quickened. His field stuttered and sang, reaching out for Ratchet. Otherwise, he didn’t make a sound.

At least, not until Ratchet’s next strike crossed over three others, firmer than before. A noise squeaked out of Megatron’s intake. He sucked air through his denta.

Ratchet paused, listening, waiting for a request to wait, to stop, for the one word that would have him throw the flog aside.

“Don’t,” Megatron said, ventilations haggard, his shoulders drifting down, armor seams gaping even further. “Don’t stop.”

Ratchet teased Megatron with his field, dragging swirls of it along Megatron’s armor, leaving heat in its wake. “Be still,” he repeated.

He struck again.

And again.

Crisscrossing his earlier marks. Harder strikes over areas of armor he had yet to touch. Lighter taps against those bared cables, enough to make Megatron jerk and audibly moan, for the chains to rattle, for him to surge back toward Ratchet in silent request. There was a click and the scent of lubricant filled the air.

Ratchet need only look, to see Megatron’s valve had bared itself. But not, curiously, his spike. He imagined Megatron was swollen, folds dripping, nodes blinking to the same tune as his biolights, desperate for a touch.

He swung, the flog snapping against Megatron’s aft, square in the center of three other marks, and Megatron’s backstrut arched. He groaned, long and low, charge crawling over his armor. His field burst with hunger, with pain and pleasure mixed, and the air throbbed with it.

Ratchet swallowed thickly, his ventilations quickening. “More?” he asked as he lightly tapped the flog over every bared seam, little flicks that barely qualified as pain.

He heard nothing but the rasp of Megatron’s ventilations. The creak of his armor.

“Megatron?”

Worry crept in. He hadn’t got a response, and Megatron had hunched inward, dragging in gasping breaths from his mouth. His field still rang, hot and heavy with need, and lubricant pooled beneath his aft.

Ratchet leaned closer. “Megatron?” he repeated, a bit more firmly this time, and then he rested his free hand between Megatron’s shoulders, and against the base of Megatron’s neck.

He meant to calm, to ground Megatron with the gentle touch. He was unprepared for the way Megatron abruptly snapped upright, his wrists tugging harsh on the chain and snapping it free of the loop in an instant. His optics went coal-fire crimson, and a sound, a guttural, terrifying sound yanked out of his intake.

Ratchet hurriedly danced back, fearing a wild swing. Megatron’s field lashed out, but he did not. Terror and panic sliced razor-sharp through the air. Megatron tucked his wrists against his abdomen; he sucked air through his denta. He panted as though he’d been sent through a wringer, and then he spoke, and Ratchet almost couldn’t believe his audials.

“Turpentine,” he whispered, with the air of someone who’d been defeated.

Ratchet’s spark ached at the sight. He tossed the flog away, pointedly making it clatter as it struck the cabinet door. He wanted Megatron to audibly understand Ratchet had set it aside before he perceived it as a weapon.

“It’s okay,” Ratchet said, careful to keep his voice low. He crept around until he stood in front of Megatron, keeping his hands in view. “The flog is gone.”

Megatron drew in a deep, heavy breath. His armor clamped so tightly, Ratchet feared he’d overheat. “It was not… the flog,” he admitted, and his optics shuttered, his face turning away from Ratchet as if ashamed.

“All right.” Ratchet slipped to his knees, inching closer. “Do you want me to take off the cuffs?”

“It wasn’t them either.” But Megatron offered his wrists, and Ratchet removed the cuffs, tossing them far away as well.

Ratchet rested his hands over Megatron’s, pulling them close so he could examine Megatron’s wrists for damage. There was some minor scratching to his paint, but nothing that wouldn’t be gone soon.

“My neck,” Megatron said after a moment, and his shoulders hunched further. It had the effect of making him seem smaller, fragile. “You asked me if I had any hard stops, and I must insist from now on, that you don’t touch my neck.”

“Done.”

Megatron looked up at him, and suddenly, he looked centuries younger. There was surprise in his face, and vulnerability, too. “That easily?”

“Of course.” Ratchet inched closer, until their knees touched. He was too old to be on the floor like this, but the taste of that terror in Megatron’s field still had his own spark pounding in his chassis. “Trust and respect, remember?”

Megatron stared at him, seeing without seeing. A shiver started up in his armor, barely loosening the plates from their tight clamp.

“You don’t even have to tell me why. That’s not important. Unless you want to talk about it, I mean.” Though Ratchet had his suspicions, given what Chromedome had told him about Megatron’s reaction when Optimus offered his services. “I respect your boundary. You trust that I’ll keep it.”

“I see.” Megatron’s lips curved downward, not quite a frown, more an expression of someone who found a concept difficult to understand.

Ratchet stroked Megatron’s wrists. “Just your neck?” he prompted. “Was there anything else I should avoid in the future?”

Megatron shook his head. “I… enjoyed the pain,” he admitted and his gaze slunk away, shame bleeding into the edges of a field already choppy with other emotions. “Until that point, to clarify.”

“Are you sure? There was a moment you were unresponsive.” Ratchet squeezed Megatron’s wrists and tucked his hands back against his lap. He rose, keeping his movements slow and careful. “I’m just going to check the marks on your back.”

“It was intense. Surprisingly so,” Megatron said. “I was unprepared for the conflict in my dermal net, where I recognized I was receiving pain, but it kept turning into liquid splashes of pleasure through my sensory lines.”

The honesty was refreshing, Ratchet had to admit. He continued to telegraph his movements as he moved behind Megatron, examining the welts and marks in Megatron’s armor. Nothing had cut deeply. There were a few inflamed areas, but a night of recharge should soothe those over.

It was a textbook flogging. Ratchet hadn’t lost his touch.

“I would not be averse to experiencing it again,” Megatron added. “Only without the panic.”

“I will not touch your neck like that again,” Ratchet promised. He rested his hands gently on Megaron’s shoulders, closer to his arms than his clavicle. “Come on. Let’s get you up and into the berth.”

Confusion fluttered in Megatron’s field. “We’re done? But I thought–”

“Sometimes, partners can continue after a safe word has been spoken. It depends on the circumstances. I don’t think it’s a good idea right now,” Ratchet said. “You might disagree, but you’re not the only one who gets to say ‘no’.”

Megatron shook his head and slowly, like he had to remember how to work his limbs, climbed to his feet. He wavered unsteadily, and Ratchet gripped his elbow to keep him upright.

“I don’t disagree.”

“Good.” Ratchet carefully pulled Megatron to the berth and helped him climb on top of it.

Megatron’s limbs didn’t seem to want to obey him, which wasn’t uncommon when a session like that was disrupted in such a way. No doubt Megatron’s synapses were still operating in a state of confusion. He flopped onto the berth, onto his belly – protecting his spark, Ratchet noticed. He took an obnoxious amount of space as he usually did.

Ratchet shifted away, intending to grab a few things, but Megatron’s hand snapped out, fingers coiling around his wrist. “Where are you going?” he asked, and he might have meant it as a demand, but it came out plaintive instead.

Ratchet cursed himself. He should have known better.

“Nowhere.” He modulated his vocals to be soothing.

The mess could keep. He’d tidy in the morning. The lights could be dimmed remotely, and it wouldn’t hurt the flog or cuffs to sit on the ground. If anyone barged in and got an opticful, they deserved it.

Ratchet climbed onto the berth, though he was far too keyed up to recharge now, and quickly found himself with a blanket of former warlord. Megatron tucked himself up against Ratchet’s side, pillowing his head on Ratchet’s chassis, slinging a leg over Ratchet’s. Trapping him in place.

Ratchet froze. This was… well, this was quite intimate. Normally, when they ended up sharing a berth, it was in whatever exhausted position they flopped into after a night of endless fragging. Or they lay back to back as though they were two soldiers guarding one another in a foxhole.

“I have shift in the morning,” Megatron murmured against his chassis, ex-vents leaving a brief fog over Ratchet’s windshield.

“I’ll wake you,” Ratchet promised. His free arm – the other was trapped beneath Megatron’s bulk – curved over Megatron’s chassis. He stroked gray plating, and felt Megatron relax beneath his touch.

His field clung to Ratchet’s like a limpet’s, however, and seemed determined to match him, pulse for pulse, as if Megatron found solid ground in Ratchet. Megatron vented out, his hand hooked on Ratchet’s side.

Ratchet kept petting him, his thoughts a whirl. That had not gone as he’d expected. He’d assumed Megatron would treat tonight’s session like he had all the others – with a certain measure of condescension. Instead, he’d fully surrendered to it, and then, used his safe word.

That was probably what had surprised Ratchet the most.

Now he had a vulnerable murderous warlord cuddling him for comfort, and Ratchet’s spark was doing queer things in his chassis. Things like affection which had no place here in a relationship that wasn’t.

Megatron trusted him to abide by the safe word. Megatron trustedhe wouldn’t overstep this important boundary in the future.

Megatron trusted him.

Guilt clawed out of the pit of Ratchet’s tank and settled in his spark, pulsing ice through his lines. It took effort to keep it out of his field so Megatron wouldn’t detect it.

He’d lectured Megatron over and over about the importance of trust, and here he was, lying to Megatron. A lie by omission perhaps, but still a lie. He let Megatron believe the fool’s energon kept him weak and pliant. He fed the foul mixture to Megatron every day. He lied, over and over, and he’d have to continue to lie.

Optimus’ orders were absolute, no matter how Ratchet disagreed with them. Optimus was right. Megatron was a threat. Megatron was dangerous. But perhaps he was sincere about changing. This was his opportunity to do so.

How would he react to know the fool’s energon was a farce?

How could Ratchet be such a hypocrite?

But he couldn’t tell Megatron the truth. Not without both defying Optimus and potentially putting the crew’s life in jeopardy.

He couldn’t keep lying either. Not to someone who shared his berth. Especially not to someone he was now engaging in domination and submission play with. It was a matter of trust. Megatron trusted him, and Ratchet betrayed that trust every time he handed over a cube of Fool’s Energon.

More than that, how could he in good conscience, continue a relationship with a mech he was required to lie to? How could he be with someone he didn’t trust in turn? Ratchet wanted to believe in Megatron, but the rational side of him was certain Megatron’s motivations were suspect, and his presence on the Lost Light was all part of some larger plan.

It was a moral quandary of the worst sort.

It meant Ratchet had to make a decision. He wasn’t sure where to even start. He needed an outside opinion. Someone else’s advice.

There was only one person on the ship he trusted to be discreet.

It would have to be Rung.

~

Megatron was gone when Ratchet awoke in the morning. He wasn’t sure which was more surprising, that Megatron had crept out or Ratchet hadn’t even noticed. Then again, he’d said he had a morning shift, so perhaps it wasn’t embarrassment or shame that had him pulling a disappearing act.

Ratchet leveraged himself out of the berth feeling the years and the mileage on his creaking frame. He downed both coolant and energon in equal measures. He had to be on shift soon, too, but he had enough time to visit Rung, if Rung had time for him anyway.

He did.

“Ratchet, what a pleasant surprise,” Rung said as he gestured for Ratchet to come inside.

Coming to visit Rung was always like coming home. Rung’s field was full of warm acceptance, and it greeted Ratchet’s with a bump of affection. There was nothing angry about Rung, nothing difficult. He was uncomplicated, and he was one of Ratchet’s oldest friends, especially to have survived the war.

“Though I take it this isn’t a social call?”

Ratchet grunted. “No, but I really should do that more often.” He slung his arm over Rung’s shoulders and tugged the small therapist into a side-embrace. “Though from what I hear, you don’t want for visitors.”

Rung’s field blushed like a coy untouched, but Ratchet knew good and well there was fire and steel beneath it. “I have my fair share,” he said as he returned the embrace. “Though I hear rumor you do as well.”

“I should have known I couldn’t keep a secret from you.” Ratchet dropped down into the patient couch, his backstrut aching. He sprawled his arms across the back of it, tipping his head to look at the ceiling. “I need advice.”

“So I gathered.” Rung sat behind his desk and placed his elbows on top, lacing his fingers together. “Of a personal sort then. You’ve taken a rather controversial lover, I hear.”

Ratchet snorted. “Controversial,” he repeated. “That’s a delicate way of putting it.” He shuttered his optics and cycled a loud, full vent. “I am in over my head, Rung.”

“It happens to the best of us. What can I do for you, Ratchet?” Rung, at least, didn’t seem to judge Ratchet for his poor decision-making when it came to interface partners.

He should have just taken Bluestreak up on the offer the sniper made when he first came onto the ship. But like didn’t necessarily call to like, and Ratchet knew he and Blue would end up where they’d always been – grating against each other, one dom to another. He adored Bluestreak, he truly did. But it wasn’t a relationship that could last longer than an intermittent night or two.

“I need you to tell me the truth.” Ratchet palmed his face. “The truth I don’t want to hear.”

“All right.” He heard Rung cycle a long ventilation, felt the gentle wave of his field. “If you want to continue as you are, you have to tell Megatron the truth.”

Damn it.

“I can’t do that!” Ratchet snapped and jerked upright, directing a glare at one of his oldest friends. “I have orders.”

“We’re no longer at war, Ratchet. Your orders are whatever you accept them to be.” Rung’s voice was quiet, but there was chastisement in it. He leaned back, removing his glasses to clean them. It was an action that appeared nonchalant, but Ratchet knew better.

“But that’s not what has you drowning in guilt, is it?”

Ratchet chewed on the inside of his cheek. “Controversial,” he said, and it was with a ragged ventilation. “The moment I realize something deeper is growing, I realize exactly who I’ve invited into my berth.”

“And you think it’s a betrayal.”

“How can it not be?” Ratchet rocketed to his feet and started to pace, his spark whirling and churning in his chamber. “This would be the time most people say ‘I’ve lost count of how many mechs died’ but I haven’t! I can tell you their names, all the Autobots who died in my medbay because of Megatron’s war. How am I not betraying their memory?”

“That is the question, isn’t it?” Rung’s tone was mild. “Do you feel Megatron is insincere?”

It was the very same question he had asked himself before.

Ratchet rubbed at his forehead with two fingers. “I don’t know.”

“Then ask yourself this: if he were sincere, would it still feel like a betrayal?”

Ratchet skidded to a halt, his heels clicking together. “No,” he admitted, and vented a sigh. “And yes.”

Wanting to change now didn’t excuse his behavior in the past. Working to create a better future was a good start, so long as he was sincere. If Megatron was sincere, then yes, some of the guilt would ease. Ratchet would find it a lot easier to forgive himself. Maybe he wouldn’t dream about the dead haunting him.

He could point out, ‘look, wars aren’t won by victory, but by forgiveness after defeat’. It was all well and good to say the Decepticons were defeated, but if nothing changed, they’d eventually end up back where they were. And Ratchet was tired.

None of that mattered, however, because Ratchet couldn’t be certain of Megatron’s motivations. He could ask, but he couldn’t trust the answer he’d get. He wanted to. Oh, it would be so much simpler if he could take everything Megatron said and did at face value.

He had centuries of war behind him as proof that with Megatron, nothing was ever as it seemed.

“Do you think his feelings for you are sincere?” Rung asked, the soft query somehow feeling like a punch to the abdomen, for all the reality it delivered.

Ratchet hadn’t even considered that. He’d been so consumed by whether or not Megatron was going to betray the Autobots and the Lost Light, he’d not spared a thought as to whether or not Megatron would betray him.

Realization poured over him like a spray of liquid nitrogen. He’d never considered that a concern. In the long run, Ratchet was worthless to any plan Megatron might have. He’d never betray Optimus, he wasn’t a bargaining chip, and he wouldn’t join the Decepticons for any reason. There was no logical ground for Megatron to begin a relationship with Ratchet save for the obvious one.

He wanted to.

And Ratchet, frag himself to the Pit and back, wanted Megatron, too. He even trusted the former warlord and mass murderer’s feelings for him. He believed Megatron was sincere about that much.

It floored him.

It made him sway, dizzily, and Ratchet had to catch himself.

“Ratchet?” Rung sounded worried. There was a hiss of ancient hydraulics as he rose, perhaps intending to circle around the desk.

“It never occurred to me to think otherwise,” Ratchet said, barely above a whisper. He looked up at one of his oldest, dearest friends. “He’s with me because he wants to be. And I’m with him…”

“Because you want to be,” Rung finished for him, the smallest of smiles on his lips. Tension eased out of his frame, the concern in his field stroking gently over Ratchet’s, soothing him.

Ratchet dragged a hand down his face. “That… it’s just… it only makes the decision harder.”

“Does it?”

Ratchet’s shoulders sagged. He dropped his hands. “No.” He slumped back into the couch, head tipping back.

Rung circled around the desk and sat next to him, resting a hand on his thigh. “You already know what you need to do.”

Sadly, he did.

Ratchet curled an arm over Rung’s shoulders, tucking the therapist against him. “Why couldn’t I have fallen for you?” he sighed, a purely rhetorical question, of course.

Rung chuckled and patted him on the thigh. “Because I’m not the kind of challenge you need.”

“Would be easier if you were,” he muttered, and let himself soak in Rung’s stabilizing field. A thought occurred to him. “Though you know, Bluestreak–”

“Hush you little matchmaking busybody. I’m perfectly capable of finding a berthmate on my own.” Rung sounded amused at least. “Besides, he was my patient for far too long.”

“Just saying.” Ratchet grinned and shuttered his optics, drawing on Rung’s field to give him the courage he needed, to do what he had to do.

It was why he’d come here. He trusted Rung to give him the honest answers, even if he didn’t want to hear them.

It was a hard choice, but Ratchet had long been familiar with hard choices.

This part or that part. This injury or that injury. Save the flickering spark, or fix the broken leg so the mech could rejoin the battle. Both of them dying, in the end, because it was war – brutal and bloody and unforgiving.

Ratchet sighed and hid behind his palm.

Curse his conscience.

[IDW] Walking the Wire 04

Megatron had Ratchet pinned against the wall, the rinse spattering down over them, solvent swirling down the drain, when his comm chimed.

He tried to ignore it, his mouth otherwise occupied with the hot tangle of Ratchet’s glossa. Their fields intertwined, pulsing to the same needy beat. Ratchet’s spike pressed hot and rigid against his thigh. Megatron’s own left streaks over Ratchet’s abdomen.

His hands drifted down to Ratchet’s hips, gripping and squeezing. He tensed, with every intention of lifting and plunging deep into Ratchet, sinking into the hot grasp of Ratchet’s valve and making the medic overload all over his spike.

His comm chimed again, this time with a command priority override, so that Rodimus’ voice spilled into his comm system. Megatron startled and jerked his mouth away from Ratchet’s.

“My shift doesn’t start for another half hour,” Megatron snarled to the impatient brat. He stared at the wall above Ratchet’s head, trying to control his ventilations so he didn’t sound two thrusts away from overload.

Rodimus sighed into the comm, and Megatron could picture him rolling his optics. “I know that. But Blaster picked up something you’re going to want to hear. Unless you want me deciding to answer it all by myself.”

Primus below. Who knew what kind of trouble they’d get into if Megatron left Rodimus as the sole-decision-maker. And where the frag was Ultra Magnus? Why wasn’t he up there knocking some sense into his former captain current co-captain?

“What is it?” Megatron demanded as Ratchet made a noise and ground against him, his spike skittering hot over Megatron’s armor.

“A distress call,” Rodimus answered, because he was an utter child and couldn’t get to the point fast enough.

Megatron growled. “So?” He stroked a hand down Ratchet’s side to try and placate the boiling field of irritation now rolling against him.

“It’s pre-war code.”

Pre-war. Not Autobot or Decepticon. It could be anyone. It could also be the Knights. It could be the very thing they sought.

It could be Megatron’s undoing.

He worked his intake, mouth suddenly dry. “I’ll be right there.”

Megatron ended the comm before Rodimus could reply with a smart retort. He took a moment to ventilate, before the hot press of a frame against his reminded him that he was in the middle of something.

Ratchet growled, his hands on Megatron’s sides, fingers digging between seams to pinch at the cables beneath. “I’m going to kill that flame-painted idiot.”

“You can’t, we need him,” Megatron said with a soft laugh. He smoothed his hands up and down Ratchet’s sides, his own ardor cooling, but Ratchet still firm and hungry against him.

“Says you.” Ratchet snarled. “I swear to Primus that if you don’t finish me off, I’m going to reformat you into a toaster.”

Megatron reached behind Ratchet and slammed his palm against the shower, cutting off the spray. “Won’t that violate your code of ethics?” he asked, his voice echoing without the noise of the spray to muffle it.

He started to lower himself to a kneel as Ratchet grumped at him, “You’re still alive, aren’t you? That’s the import – ah! – important part.”

Ratchet’s grumble cut off into a gasp as Megatron licked the head of his spike. It bobbed eagerly at the apex of Ratchet’s thighs, the perfect mouthful. Mostly red, with white stripes in thick and thin bands, it was a colorful testament to the energetic and fun youth Ratchet must have been.

Megatron would never admit aloud, but he enjoyed sucking Ratchet off. Ratchet fit perfectly in his mouth, a heavy weight across his glossa, the head of his spike nudging the back of Megatron’s intake in a subtle, but powerful sort of claim.

“That– that’ll work,” Ratchet gasped out, and his hands found Megatron’s head, curving gently around it. His hips rolled forward, gently thrusting his spike into Megatron’s mouth.

His field spilled over Megatron’s, crackling with need. It filled the small space of the washrack, almost suffocating in its potency. Ratchet was already close, and Megatron could taste that urgency in his field, on his spike.

Megatron hummed around Ratchet and sucked him deeper, letting the entirety of Ratchet’s spike fill his mouth. Prefluid trickled down his intake as Ratchet throbbed. He made these bitten off noises, and his grip on Megatron’s head tightened.

Megatron curled his hands around Ratchet’s aft, urging him to thrust, go deeper, until Megatron’s nose brushed against Ratchet’s spike housing. He shuttered his optics, soaking in the sensation, working his intake around Ratchet’s spike.

Ratchet groaned, curling forward, hips making jerking thrusts. Perhaps he was trying to be careful. The concern was touching.

But they were on a timetable here.

Megatron’s intake worked again and again, glossa pressing on the length of Ratchet’s spike. He slipped one hand between Ratchet’s thighs, fingers seeking up and up, until he found the soaking damp of Ratchet’s valve. His thumb nudged firmly over Ratchet’s nub, as two fingers slipped inside, curved just right.

Megatron swallowed.

Ratchet clutched at his head and overloaded, spilling in several hot, heavy spurts down the back of Megatron’s intake. He clutched at Megatron’s head, holding him in place, forcing Megatron to swallow the spill. His moan muffled against Ratchet’s spike, the tug of Ratchet’s field trying his self-control. His spike throbbed within the confines of his panel, demanding that it, too, find relief.

If this wasn’t important, Megatron was going to fling Rodimus out the cargo bay.

Megatron worked Ratchet carefully as the medic sagged against the wall, panting for ventilations, his hands gentling in their grip. Megatron let Ratchet slip from his mouth and rose. He licked his lips, tasting Ratchet upon them.

“Am I forgiven?” he asked as he swept he squeezed Ratchet’s hips, ignoring the urgent throb of his own system.

Dazed blue optics lifted to his. “It’s a start,” Ratchet managed, unwilling as always to admit when Megatron had impressed him. “What did Rodimus want?”

“We’ve detected an SOS apparently.” Megatron stepped away from Ratchet and grabbed a couple of drying towels, tossing one to the medic. “Judging from the glee in his voice, he thinks it might be related to the Knights.” He wiped his fingers clean of lubricant.

Considering they were less than a week out from the coordinates Nautica had found in Quartex, then Rodimus could very well be right. Or they were walking straight into a trap of some kind. One centuries old, but still. You could never be too careful.

“And you want to, what, delay him?” Ratchet asked.

Megatron slanted him a look. “Why would I want that?”

“Finding the Knights does mean you will face judgment.” Ratchet shrugged, but there was something tense about it. Far from nonchalant. “Then again, you probably have a plan for that.”

Megatron quickly swiped the cloth across his frame, the urgent throb of his spike suddenly as uncomfortable as the lingering flavor of transfluid on his glossa. “If you’re so convinced I’m up to no good, what are you even doing here?”

“It’s my washrack.” Ratchet’s drying off was half-sparked at best. He paid as little attention to it as he paid to Megatron.

He pressed his lips together, reminding himself that while Ratchet’s glossa was as sharp as Starscream’s, he didn’t respond to the same kind of discipline. “You know what I meant, medic.”

“Yeah, I do. Doesn’t mean I want to answer your question.” Ratchet balled up the damp towel and tossed it in the vague direction of the laundry drop. He had become quite good at evading Megatron’s questions.

And the laundry drop apparently.

Megatron stooped to pick up the towel lump, stuffing both it and his own down the chute. They’d been navigating this tricky territory for several days now, as Ratchet grappled with some internal demon, and Megatron struggled not to hate him for it. He despised this feeling of uncertainty, of not knowing whether Ratchet was going to kiss him or snarl at him.

It would be easier, he knew, to walk away now. To put aside this relationship, if he were being generous, and stop allowing himself to be distracted. Why he couldn’t seem to do that, Megatron didn’t know.

Why, Ravage asked him, time and time again. Every evening he returned late, or every morning he stumbled inside, just long enough to tidy up before his shift. Why?

Megatron worked his jaw, and decided to let it go for now. They didn’t have time to rehash this.

Again.

He moved to the door and noticed Ratchet made no motion to follow him. So Megatron paused in the entry and looked back at the medic, who seemed very occupied with the few spatters of solvent sticking tackily to the floor.

“Are you coming?” he asked.

Ratchet snorted. “I already did, thanks.” He finally looked up at Megatron, a twinkle of mischief in his optics. “But you didn’t.”

“It’s nothing but a discomfort. I’ve had worse.” He currently felt worse, what with the pits and empty craters inside his frame.

He wondered if Ratchet ever feared spiking him, only to lose that integral piece of his frame to a wandering black hole.

“I’m sure you have,” Ratchet muttered, but he moved to follow Megatron anyway. “Might as well. I don’t have anything better to do since I’ve been banned from working on my days off.”

Megatron had won that particular argument. He assumed it would be the only victory he’d be able to celebrate for quite some time.

“If Rodimus is involved, you can be assured it’s not going to be boring.” Megatron gestured for Ratchet to precede him.

After a long moment of staring at him, searching for something Megatron didn’t know, Ratchet took the invitation.

“Boredom isn’t what I’m worried about,” Ratchet said.

He peered into the hall, checking the corridors for nosy crewmembers before he let Megatron follow him out. They weren’t being secretive as a rule, but neither of them wanted to answer uncomfortable questions. Neither did Megatron want anyone to question Ratchet’s dedication to their health and safety. Because of course, Ratchet would be considered compromised.

The door locked behind them.

“Frankly, I could use a little boredom,” Ratchet added with the edge of a grumble. He looked down at his hands, picking at the palm of one though there was nothing Megatron could see that would cause him irritation.

“Boredom has it’s place,” Megatron agreed. But boredom and peace were not the same thing.

It wasn’t until they walked onto the bridge – together – Megatron realized how much of a bad idea it was. Especially when every optic turned toward them, including Rodimus and Ultra Magnus’. Blaster stood next to them, a datapad in hand, and he looked up, too.

Rodimus’ jaw visibly dropped. “Did you two arrive together?” he demanded with a pointed finger their direction.

“No,” Megatron replied, and Ratchet echoed him, too much in sync for it to come across as anything but guilty.

Rodimus’ optics narrowed. “So it’s a coincidence?”

Ratchet growled.

Megatron shoved himself in front of the medic. “You pulled me up here for something important,” he reminded the flame-painted menace. “What was it so I can go ahead and tell you it’s ridiculous.”

Pink flushed across Rodimus’ face before his spoiler jerked upward. “Ridiculous?” he echoed and snatched the datapad from Blaster’s hands. He stomped across the floor and shoved it against Megatron’s chest. “Look at that and tell me who’s being ridiculous.”

Megatron caught the datapad before it could tumble to the ground. He peered at the screen as Rodimus stepped back, folding his arms with a harrumph. His spoiler arched upward, and he started tapping his feet.

Unfamiliar glyphs scrolled across the screen. Megatron could not read them, but he could recognize a pattern. It was the same statement, repeated over and over. There was a certain cadence to it that reflected a sense of urgency. And it did resemble the type of glyphs around the coordinates they followed.

“See?” Rodimus said.

“I see gibberish,” Megatron replied. He looked past Rodimus toward Blaster. “You’ve translated them?”

Ratchet plucked the datapad out of Megatron’s hands, perhaps to see for himself. That he did so without hesitation was more than a little telling.

“Yes, sir.” Blaster’s weight shifted, his dock fluttering as though fighting back the urge to release his cassettes, not that Megatron believed him to carry any. “Sounds like a distress call to me, though I got Rewind and Nautica and Nightbeat confirming it.”

“The coordinates are in our flight path.” Ultra Magnus turned to key something into the console, bringing up a holoimage of their current route and the location of the distress call.

It would not delay them to investigate it. As far as Megatron could tell, the signal originated from a satellite orbiting a rather large gas planet. The satellite was misshapen, not fully spherical, as though it had taken heavy bombardment, perhaps from space debris.

“It’s definitely worth a side trip.” Rodimus lifted a hand and waved it about. “I vote that we investigate. And not just because it could give us some clues.”

“There may be Cybertronians in need of help,” Ratchet said, his head tilted, but his optics narrowed. “Though judging by these glyphs and their historical significance, I fear whoever issued this SOS is long dead.”

“Or gone,” Megatron said.

“Oh, come on,” Rodimus near-whined, leaping from foot to foot and dancing in place. “Aren’t you the least bit curious? Don’t you want to know what they’re doing all the way out here?”

Megatron sighed. He rubbed at the bridge of his nose. Truthfully, whatever they sought in the Hyades Cluster had been there for quite some time. It could wait long enough for them to investigate this broadcast.

Besides, if he tried to argue against it, Rodimus would sulk for months, and they had a hard enough time getting him to do his paperwork as it was. If he started ignoring it again, then Ultra Magnus would sulk, and that was quite enough moping Autobots. Two more than Megatron needed.

“Fine.” He waved toward the holoscreen. “Let’s investigate. At the very least, it may help us on our greater quest.”

“Yes!” Rodimus pumped both fists into the air. “Highbrow, you heard the co-captain. Take us to the satellite and set us in orbit. We’ll take the Rodpod.”

“Sir, yes, sir.” Highbrow sounded amused.

Megatron sighed again. The Rodpod? Seriously? He loathed that thing. He felt quite unsafe in that thing. But like the Pit would he leave Rodimus to explore the signal on his own, with some handpicked crew who would prove to be less than useful.

“Call Perceptor, too. Have him meet us there.” Rodimus spun and started striding off the bridge. He paused by Megatron. “I guess you’re coming too?”

“There must be someone with a level head to keep you on task,” Megatron said. “Especially since Ultra Magnus will remain here so there is at least one command presence on the bridge.”

He couldn’t decide if Ultra Magnus’ sigh was one of relief or disappointment.

“You’ll need a medic,” Ratchet volunteered, and gave Megatron a pointed look. “Even if I’m not on shift.”

Megatron swallowed down a sigh.

This was going to be the exact opposite of his idea of fun.

~

Perceptor piloted despite Rodimus’ insistence he could do it, and Megatron was quite grateful Rodimus seemed to take Perceptor’s quieting glare in stride. It meant the ride was quite smooth, and Perceptor had the good sense to circle what was clearly a crash site before landing near it.

The ship – the size of a scout ship more or less – had nose-dived into a sandy stretch of empty ground. The aft end stuck out like an unexploded missile, and the stabilizing wings to either side of it had been shorn off in the crash. Other than that, there was no visible damage on the outside to indicate why it had crashed.

It wasn’t very promising.

They disembarked and cautiously approached the downed ship. The broadcast for assistance crackled in their comms, until they switched to another channel. There was no atmosphere here, nothing to carry sound. There was very little gravity as well, and as they walked, they disturbed the sediment. It rose up and formed a cloud around their lower halves.

The cargo bay door was only a quarter buried, but still accessible. Perceptor plugged into the system, and even though the ship was centuries old, some things were apparently universal. He managed to get them access.

The air didn’t depressurize as the cargo bay door slid open. Which meant it hadn’t been pressurized to start with.

The whole group hesitated. Perceptor’s scanner flashed a series of nonsense lights at them. “I’m not reading anything that should concern us,” he said. “No signs of life either. It seems the Lost Light’s sensors were accurate.”

“There may not be anyone on board, but there could still be some information we could use,” Rodimus decided, squaring his shoulders. He was the first to put his foot on the ramp. “Let’s go.”

Megatron had to give Rodimus credit. The brat had courage in spades. He might be a work-avoiding, self-interested little Autobot, but he had no problem leaping into the jaws of danger. There was something Decepticon about that.

Rodimus went in first, and Megatron followed, with Ratchet in his wake. Perceptor brought up the rear, sweeping his scanner back and forth. The ramp creaked beneath their footsteps, loud enough to feel the vibrations in their armor. Emergency runners blinked fitfully. As though they had power, but only just.

“There were probably a half-dozen crewmembers,” Ratchet commented, his voice crackling through their comms. “A vessel of this size wouldn’t have supported more.”

“It’s scout class,” Megatron agreed as he examined the walls, the supports.

“But what were they searching for? Why were they out here?” Perceptor asked, though the question seemed directed at no one in particular. His scanner flashed a series of lights. “If the design holds true to earlier ships, the bridge should be straight down this compartment.”

Perceptor was right, of course. But then, he was always right. It had to have been some law of the universe. Megatron once tried to coax Perceptor to the Decepticons. But either he’d laid the wrong bait, or Perceptor was that stridently Autobot. The attempt had failed.

In hindsight, sending Starscream to wheedle Perceptor had not been the best idea. He’d thought, at the time, like would call to like. Scientist to scientist. Or perhaps Starscream had failed on purpose, disliking the idea of competition when it came to scientific acumen. He’d detested Shockwave.

The Decepticons had suffered several losses due in no small part to the kind of scientific minds the Autobots could call. Shockwave, for example, had always loathed Perceptor. Megatron could see why. Jealousy often bred loathing.

It took the combined might of Perceptor’s laser cutter and Megatron’s brute strength to force the door to the bridge open. A cloud of silt greeted them, along with an odd, metallic odor. Like human blood, Megatron’s processor reminded him. It clogged in his filters, and it took all he had not to cough out the particulate.

“Gross,” Rodimus said with a wrinkle of his nose.

Here, the emergency lights were steadier. There was a faint illumination over the captain’s chair, front and center. It was occupied by a limp, gray frame. Four other chairs were arrayed in front of it in a semi-circle at what Megatron assumed were several stations, such as navigation and communication. Each chair was occupied.

“No life signs,” Perceptor said. He took point at the main console, fingers flicking across keys in an effort to bring up some kind of function.

“No.” Ratchet peered at the bulk of the captain’s lifeless husk. “Not for some time now.”

“What killed them?” Megatron asked.

There was no sign of a struggle. Nothing was destroyed. They weren’t in battle formation and had no visible weapons. The filth made it impossible to see blaster marks or energy weapon ash, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any.

Perceptor’s scanners would probably tell them more.

“I’m not sure,” Ratchet said, and there was an odd edge to his voice across the comm. “At first examination, I’d say their sparks burnt out. I’ll need to do an autopsy.”

“Burnt out?” Rodimus repeated with wide optics. “Our sparks do that?”

“We don’t live forever,” Megatron said with a snort. “It just seems like we do.”

Rodimus scowled at him. “People don’t send out distress signals because of old age, Megatron.”

“It was caused by something else,” Percepter commented as a holo-monitor fuzzed to life in front of him, words in an ancient Cybertronian language flashing across the screen. “I cannot read this.”

“Then maybe Rewind can. We should’ve brought him in the first place,” Rodimus muttered, and he turned away from all of them, switching to a different channel, no doubt to contact Blaster and get Rewind down here.

Ratchet tapped Megatron on the elbow to get his attention. “Help me get these back to my medbay,” he said as he lifted one of the smaller corpses into his arms. “The captain’s biggest.”

Megatron scowled but found himself obeying. Ratchet had a point, and it wasn’t like there was anything else he could do here. So he lifted the captain, who was far less stiff than he would have expected. The largest the captain might be, but he was still small in comparison to Megatron, closer in size to Perceptor.

He followed Ratchet out of the scout ship and back toward the Rodpod, leaving Perceptor at the console and Rodimus peering into every nook and cranny as though he could find a clue hiding there. Megatron doubted it. All of the information would be found in the dead and in the computer.

They docked and departed with their load, as another group of mechs – Rewind included – boarded the Rodpod and headed back down to the ship.

The Lost Light seemed a lot brighter and noisier, after the dim and silence of the depressurized scout cabin. The lingering sense of unease vanished in the brightness however, and Megatron shook off the last of the disquiet.

In the medbay, Ratchet directed Megatron to lay the captain on one slab while he carefully deposited his burden on another. Here, under the bright lights, more features were easier to distinguish. One had a visor, the other a face mask. Megatron couldn’t see any signs of an alt-mode. They had strange designs as well, more open seams and gaps in their plating, making it easier to see the cables and such beneath.

“I told the group to bring me back the rest.” Ratchet dragged over a wheeled tray full of instruments. He hooked a chair with one foot and tugged it close as well. “Though I suspect they all died of the same thing.”

“What makes you say that?”

“There’s no trauma.” Ratchet bent over the corpse, peering at it, before selecting two tools from his array and getting to work. “Even with the rust and silt, I can tell they weren’t attacked. At least, not by conventional weapons. It’s like they crashed, for whatever reason, and then just fell into recharge and died.”

Megatron’s armor prickled. “Should we be worried about viruses or diseases?”

“Mm. I can’t think of a single pathogen capable of surviving this long that could infect us.” Ratchet wiped at a flat piece of abdominal armor, revealing the slate-gray of deceased paneling beneath. “But then, who knows what they could have picked up out here.” He waved vaguely. “I scanned them, if that makes you feel better.”

“And?”

“Nothing. Zip, zilch, nada.” Ratchet pressed his lips together, brow drawing down in confusion. “Not a drop of energon either, which is the really odd part. I mean, I suppose when they fell asleep and died, it was because they gradually consumed every drop of energon in their frames, but I don’t know. It’s unusual.”

Ratchet sighed and poked around the frame, before lifting up a rusted panel on the mech’s arm. It creaked noisily, revealing a medical port. “It’s too late now. Suppose we should have done a decontamination rinse at the least. The benefit of hindsight, I guess.”

He rummaged around, producing a datapad, and this he plugged into the mech’s systems. He tapped at the screen, frown deepening.

“Anything?”

“He’s a dead computer,” Ratchet said and gave Megatron a wry grin. “To put it crudely. I can’t access anything because there’s not a scrap of charge left.” He sighed and patted the deceased mech on the abdomen. “Looks like I’m going to have to do this the hard way, soldier.”

“Which is?”

“Removing his processor and plugging it into an external reader. I only hope our current tech can read his ancient tech.” Ratchet set aside the datapad and brought out a spray bottle and cloth. “But did you notice?” He gestured to the mech as a whole.

Megatron nodded. “No tires, wings, or other identifiable kibble.”

“Yes.” Ratchet gingerly started to wipe at the armor, no doubt looking for marks or badges or something to identify the mech with. “He’s a monoformer. That one is, too.” He gestured to the other mech on a slab. “In fact, I think they all were.”

“Is that significant?”

“I don’t know yet.” Ratchet sighed and tossed the filthy rag into the laundry, grabbing something else instead as he moved around to the mech’s head. “This could take awhile. You probably shouldn’t hang around. People might get ideas.” A magnifying glass snapped out over his optic.

Ideas. The wrong sort of ideas no doubt.

Megatron pushed off the wall and edged toward the door. “Rodimus needs further supervision anyway,” he said, his tone oddly tight. “Should I bother coming by tonight then or would that give people ideas as well?”

Ratchet didn’t even look up from his examination of the corpse, his face distressingly close to the washed out metal. “Don’t ask stupid questions.”

“I’m going to take that as a yes.” Megatron rolled his optics. He lingered, hand rapping a nonsense rhythm on the doorframe. He should leave, but he felt there was something here, something he needed to poke a little harder. “You do understand why I asked, don’t you? You can be… mercurial.”

Ratchet’s head snapped up, magnifying optic flashing oddly in the overhead light. “I am not!”

Megatron only lifted an orbital ridge. That didn’t even dignify a response. They both knew he was right.

Ratchet’s lips pressed together. His head dipped down again, hands carefully lifting out a rusted chip from the mech’s processor and setting it aside, into a cleaning solution.

“First Aid has your energon,” he said.

It was dismissal if Megatron ever heard one. Unfortunately for Ratchet, one he wasn’t inclined to take at the moment. The urge to poke lingered, and Megatron was tired of standing on an edge, wondering if he dared take one step forward, or one step back.

Besides, he had a question, and the privacy of this room was perfect for getting it answered.

Ratchet must have noticed his hesitation, because he rather crankily demanded, “What?”

Megatron worked his jaw before he decided to barge forward. He was many things, but a coward wasn’t one of them.

“Trust,” he said.

“What?” Ratchet repeated himself, his lips curling into a frown, but his hands steady as he plucked free another chip.

Megatron moved away from the door, clasping his hands behind his back. “What we are doing requires trust,” he said. “But you don’t trust me.”

“This is neither the time nor the place–”

“On the contrary,” Megatron interrupted, his spark pounding faster in his chassis. “This is the perfect place, since anyone looking at the camera could assume we are discussing important matters, and it’s the perfect time, because neither you nor I are going anywhere.”

Irritation flickered in Ratchet’s field. “Fine.”

It didn’t feel like a victory, it was too hollow for that, but Megatron barreled forward anyway. “You don’t trust me,” he repeated.

Ratchet audibly vented and set down both scalpel and forceps. “I trust certain things about you. But to say I unequivocally trust you? No, I can’t do that.” He looked up at Megatron, something flat in his optics. “And it should be obvious why.”

“Are my actions not enough?”

“After centuries of war?” Ratchet leaned back in his chair, looking over the poor mech on the table. “A few months of good behavior means nothing in the wake of that.”

Megatron chuffed a vent. “I don’t mean that,” he nearly snapped. “Have I not treated you in a manner worthy of trust?”

Ratchet rubbed his hand over his head, looking tired. “I can’t separate the two in my head. It’s not that easy.” One foot scuffed at the floor, his gaze turning distant. “Yes, I trust you’re not going to hurt me. But not all pain is physical.”

Megatron’s optics widened. He wondered if Ratchet realized what he’d just admitted. Perhaps this was not as one-sided as he’d begun to fear.

“If I make you so uneasy, why do you continue this?” Megatron asked.

“I guess I’m just a masochist.” Ratchet’s lips quirked in a self-deprecating grin. He scooted his chair forward, picking up the tools of his trade. “Besides, you can’t say you trust me either.”

Megatron shook his head. “I trust no one to that extent. It’s not personal.”

“Exactly my point. There are different kinds of trust.” Ratchet’s optics cycled wider, for a magnifying effect perhaps. “It’s up to you if what we’re working with is enough.”

Megatron folded his arms, staring hard at the floor. Was it enough? Ratchet trusted Megatron not to hurt him, which was something no one else on this ship could claim. But he’d already proven to be fickle when it came to their relationship.

But he was still the only one Megatron felt he could remotely trust. At least, with this particular need. Despite it all, Megatron likedRatchet.

It would have to be enough.

“I’ve been doing research,” Megatron began haltingly. It went against every instinct to bare himself like this. “There are certain acts which intrigue me.” He let the statement hang, waiting for Ratchet’s reaction.

“I’m listening.”

Megatron hesitated. “Controlled pain is of interest to me,” he admitted. “And I… trust you to apply it appropriately.”

There. He said it.

Ratchet froze, a flake of grit and grime fluttering to the floor. “All right,” he said at length. “What kind of pain?”

“Mild. No visible marks. No carnage. No– no beating or seemingly random assault.” Megatron’s mouth went dry, a mixture of anxiety for the former scenarios, and intrigue over what possibilities remained.

Ratchet released a contemplative hum, seemingly fully distracted by his autopsy but his reply indicating otherwise. “Whips? Electricity? Flogs?”

“The latter, I think.” Megatron gnawed on his bottom lip. Flogs, he knew, could be a targeted, precise pain. Never incidental, always intentional. Sharp.

His engine gave a little rev.

“Restraints?”

“For your own safety, yes. I may lash out on instinct.” Why did it feel so normal? They were having this strange, intimate conversation – while Ratchet autopsied a centuries dead mech no less – and all discomfort had vanished.

“Just pain then?”

Megatron’s forehead drew down. “I… yes?” He wasn’t sure what Ratchet meant by the question.

Ratchet looked up. “Some mechs like to combine pain with other kinks. Like master/slave playacting or humiliation or punishment.”

“No.” Megatron didn’t even have to think about it. His entire frame tensed at the mere mention of the three so-called kinks.

“I figured.” Ratchet cycled several ventilations, his expression contemplative. He opened his mouth to say something else, but Megatron’s comm chose that moment to chirp.

He swallowed a growl of aggravation, though it doubled in intensity when he read the ident code. Of course it was Rodimus. Brat had a talent for knowing the best possible moment to interrupt.

Megatron tapped the acceptance key. “Yes?”

Rodimus’ face bubbled into view on his wrist, bright grin and overeager optics. “Yo!” One hand flickered into view with a casual wave. “Ratchet find anything?”

“Nothing yet of use,” Megatron replied.

“Damn. That sucks.” Rodimus’ leaned closer, like they were standing next to each other rather than speaking over a holo-communicator. “It’s a good thing Rewind’s having better luck then. Wanna see what I found?” The last was rather sing-song.

Megatron fought the urge to roll his optics. He refused to stoop to Rodimus’ level. “I’ll be there in a moment.”

He returned his attention to Ratchet, but the medic was now so focused on the corpse, it felt false.

“Don’t forget to get your energon,” Ratchet reminded him.

Conversation over apparently. All because duty – also known as Rodimus – called. Frag it. They were actually making progress, too.

Megatron grimaced at the reminder. “Let me know if you find anything.”

“Will do.”

This time, Megatron left as he claimed he would. He wouldn’t say that his spark felt lighter after the conversation. If anything, he felt even more unsteady, anticipation warring with dread into an obnoxious tangle in his tanks.

Tonight would give him an answer, he knew.

He only had to figure out the right question.