[IDW] Sleeping Beauty

A sleeping Ratchet was a tempting Ratchet. The creases of stress were gone from his face. His armor loosened, offering tantalizing glimpses of the cables and structures beneath. His engine idled so quietly as to not be audible. The smallest of curves graced his lips.

Drift desperately wanted to kiss him. He skimmed his hands along Ratchet’s thighs, tracing armor in need of a strip, wax, and repaint. Self-care, for Ratchet, was never high on his to-do list.

It needed to be.

Drift swore that in the shadows between Ratchet’s thighs, lubricant glistened on a still bared valve. Drift’s mouth watered. He wanted to bury his face down there, lick Ratchet awake, and then lick Ratchet to overload. He wanted to walk around with the taste of Ratchet on his lips.

Drift hummed deep in his chassis. He stroked down toward Ratchet’s knees. Ratchet’s field plucked at his, strumming pleasure as though he were an instrument.

Drift shivered. He moved closer, his armor nudging against Ratchet’s in a wonderful slide of metal against metal. Heat floated from his substructure, wafting over Ratchet. The medic twitched, making a soft sound, and one of his arms moved.

Drift eyed it warily and tensed. But all Ratchet did was grope blindly, until his arm looped around Drift’s chassis and abruptly tugged.

Drift muffled a yelp as he tumbled forward, sprawling across Ratchet’s broad chassis. The soft idle of Ratchet’s engine turned into a warm purr. He cradled Drift against him, thighs lightly bracketing Drift’s hips. He was snug and tucked against Ratchet’s array and ooo, it was bared.

Drift licked his lips. He swallowed a groan as he buried his nasal ridge against Ratchet’s intake.

“Stop squirming.” Ratchet’s arm tightened around him.

“I’m not.” Drift slid a hand against Ratchet’s side, hooking his fingers in a transformation seam. “You’re seducing me.”

“I’m recharging,” Ratchet retorted.

“And looking really adorable while doing it.” Drift pressed a kiss to Ratchet’s intake, and felt the vibrations of Ratchet’s vocalizer against his lips. “So really, it’s your fault. Ow!”

Ratchet had pinched his tire.

“Hush. Sleep now.”

Drift wriggled. “Can’t.”

“Too bad.”

Drift ex-vented over Ratchet’s intake cables, making Ratchet shiver. He grinned against Ratchet’s intake. He squirmed.

Ratchet pinched his tire again. “Don’t make me toss you off this berth.”

Drift laughed. “You wouldn’t.”

The medic’s engine grumbled at him. “If you stop squirming and go to sleep, I promise to suck you off in the morning.”

Drift stilled. His spark throbbed, as did his array. “Really, Ratchet? Bribery?”

“There’s still the option of tossing you off the berth.”

Drift’s forehelm thunked against Ratchet’s shoulder. He ex-vented hotly. “I’ll behave.”

Ratchet stroked over his tire, probably in an attempt to be soothing, but all it did was remind Drift of how much he wanted to kiss Ratchet right now.

“But you owe me an overload,” Drift muttered.

Ratchet’s arm squeezed his chassis, pinning him against the medic’s chestplate. “Put it on my tab.” His field rippled against Drift’s before it smoothed over again, the soft pulses of a mech sliding back into recharge.

Damn it. If he wasn’t so darn adorable.

Drift sighed and told his heated frame to heel. A little delayed pleasure never hurt anyone, he supposed.

Besides, he could still lick Ratchet out in the morning if he wanted. Something to look forward to then.

Drift grinned and shuttered his optics. To recharge it was.

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[IDW] Mine, Yours, Ours

Drift isn’t sure which of them said it first. He supposes it doesn’t matter given that they’ve achieved the desired result. That it’s led to this.

Him. In Megatron’s lap. Kissing his former commander as though his spark depends on it. Oil sloshes around them, warm and soothing, but nothing compared to the blaze of Megatron’s frame pressed against his. It is somehow both foreign and familiar and Drift craves more, more, moreuntil the voice hooks fingers in his desperation and drags him out of the past.

“I suppose I should leave you two be then,” Ratchet drawls, the words teasing but his tone hinting at something deeper.

Drift pulls away from the kiss, his face awash with embarrassment. But Megatron smirks and cups his aft before slanting that grin at Ratchet.

“You are every bit a part of this, my dear Ratchet,” Megatron purrs. “So you can choose to sulk or you can wade across this pool and join us.”

Drift’s optics widen even as lust spikes tenfold within him.

Ratchet and Megatron both? At once? Around him or within him or both?

Please. He’ll beg if he must.

“You’re not getting rid of me that easily,” Ratchet grumps, never one to back down from a challenge. He sloshes across the pool and his hands slide up Drift’s back, traveling familiar paths of pleasure, provoking a shiver from Drift. “He’s mine, too.”

Drift moans. He squirms between them, not caring who does what so long as they touch him.

“Please,” he says.

“You need only ask.” Megatron kisses him, soft and sweet, and Drift trembles.

Because Ratchet is here, too. Stroking him. Teasing him. Pressing against him.

Right now, there is literally no place else Drift would rather be.

[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 08

The world spun madly on.

Megatron recharged. He went on shift. He did his paperwork. He walked his routes. He hid in the library, researching things that would now see no use. He visited the medbay for his daily dose of poison, only to be served either by drone or First Aid.

Ratchet avoided him as though he carried rustmites.

Couldn’t even be civil. But of course not. Because Megatron was evil incarnate, and Ratchet had to bow and scrape before Primus in order to earn forgiveness for so much as touching Primus’ Bane.

Soundwave would have told him he was being melodramatic. Worse, that he was starting to imitate Starscream.

Neither of them were here right now. Neither of them had the right to an opinion.

The Lost Light continued speeding toward their destination without a care in the world, heedless to the turmoil twisting and churning inside Megatron. Turmoil that only grew in strength as he strode toward the meeting room where he and a group of the brightest minds on board the ship – plus Rodimus – intended to discuss the corpses in the morgue and the risk they might present.

That group would include Ratchet. As chief medical officer on board – though was up for debate as to whether or not the title was his – it was a given he’d make an appearance. They needed a medic’s opinion on the deaths.

Megatron didn’t know if he could sit across the table from Ratchet and act like everything was fine.

(It wasn’t.)

The door slid open as he approached, greeting him with the low murmur of conversation. It did not immediately cease upon sight of him, an improvement from previous meetings. Megatron headed to the first empty chair, between another empty and a surprisingly small Minimus Ambus.

He swept a gaze around the room, and the surge of relief he felt at not immediately spying Ratchet was ridiculous.

Megatron lowered himself into the seat, which gave an ominous creak beneath him. “I’m not late, am I?”

Perceptor, Brainstorm and Minimus were present. Ratchet and Rodimus were not.

“You are, as usual, quite on time,” Minimus said as he bent over a datapad, the screen covered for privacy, but his stylus moving smoothly across it. “In fact, we are only waiting for one more participant–”

The door opened again. “The fun has arrived!” Rodimus declared as he threw out his arms and strutted inside, face beaming with a bright smile. “You may now rejoice.”

Minimus sighed.

“Take a seat, Fun,” Perceptor drolled. “I have other things to do so we need to make this quick.”

Rodimus’ lower lip jutted out in a pout, his spoiler halves sinking, as though it was a true disappointment no one had applauded his entrance. “Is everyone here?”

“Yes,” Minimus answered. He flicked his fingers across his datapad and powered it down. “Perceptor, I believe you have a report for us?”

Rodimus flopped down into an empty seat at the head of the table, leaving only the seat beside Megatron as empty. Perhaps it was the chair where Ratchet was meant to sit, if he was going to attend. Though Minimus’ statement seemed to suggest otherwise.

“We have a report that is going to blow your processors,” Brainstorm said as he eagerly leaned forward against the edge of the table. He gestured broadly. “You’re not going to believe this.”

Perceptor visibly twitched. He set down a holographic projector, bringing to life a three-dimensional image of the corpses. A tap of the finger and the projector started cycling through pictures, one of which was of a mark Megatron had not seen before: five holes arranged within a circle.

“We believe these marks to be the overall cause of death,” Perceptor began, with very bo preamble whatsoever. “After extensive measuring, theorizing, and investigation, I have determined they are indicative of a predatory species–”

“Vampires,” Brainstorm inserted with a sage nod and a gleam of glee in his optics.

Perceptor sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “We are not calling them that.”

“At least he’s admitting there’s a ‘we’ now.” Brainstorm nudged Perceptor with his elbow, a rather brave act in Megatron’s opinion. Said scientist had gone from meek physicist to pinpoint accurate sniper over the course of the war.

Mech who could make a change like that was not a mech one wanted to bother.

“Vampires,” Rodimus repeated, and he was perhaps the only one in the room who could echo Brainstorm’s glee with the same enthusiasm. “Like pale, organic, dressed in black, with fangs and wanting to suck your blood?” At fangs, he literally formed fangs with his fingers and held them up to his lips.

Megatron sighed. “I doubt that is what Perceptor meant.”

“Unfortunately, excluding the organic details, yes, that is what I meant.” Perceptor peered at his datapad as though it would provide some sort of lifeline. “This species indeed has fangs – the five prong marks we detected, and their saliva is detectable by blacklight. They suck blood – in our case, energon. It is why the ship’s tanks were also dry.”

“So it consumes energon in all forms,” Megatron said.

“We’ve yet to decide if they are energon-specific, or if they are energy vampires in general,” Brainstorm pointed out as he plucked a datapad out of subspace and tried to shove it into Perceptor’s view. “They could be responsible for the spark burnout. Or that’s a consequent of the rapid energon-loss.”

“I have asked Ratchet to give us his professional opinion. I’m waiting on his report,” Perceptor said with another sweep of his stylus over his datapad. He ignored Brainstorm’s datapad with practiced disinterest.

Oh, to be a cassetticon on the wall of their laboratory. It had to be entertaining.

Rodimus squinted and looked around the table as though he’d suddenly realized they didn’t have a medic present. “Wait. Where is Ratchet? I thought he was coming to this.”

“Would you like his words or something more polite?” Perceptor’s ocular patch flashed at them. “Or I can paraphrase: he’s busy.”

Busy. Right. Megatron didn’t believe that for a moment. Ratchet was avoiding him, the coward. Like it was Megatron’s idea to end this thing between them.

“Busy,” Rodimus echoed. He plopped an elbow on the edge of the table and rubbed at his forehead. “Let me get this straight. We’re potentially lightspeeding toward danger, and he’s too busy to let us know how much danger we’re in?”

Perceptor stared. Coming from him, it was a lot more eerie than it used to be. “I am assuming that question is rhetorical, since I have no control over Ratchet and apparently, neither do our captains.”

Ouch.

Megatron flinched. Rodimus gaped.

Ultra Magnus – or Minimus for the meeting today, perhaps the armor was getting sanitized – coughed a ventilation. “How have we never encountered them before?”

“We have,” Perceptor said. “There are recorded instances of spacefaring Cybertronians encountering creatures such as these, but no deaths. In most instances, they were able to escape with minimal ill-effects.”

“What was so different this time?” Megatron asked.

Brainstorm spread his hands. “You see, the knights are old, right? So old they are even built differently from us. So old they probably met up with these creatures when they were still primitive, didn’t even know what we were really, except we smelled and tasted good. Plus, you know, the crash.”

“Smelled?” Rodimus shivered theatrically, his spoiler flattening against his back.

“In a manner of speaking. They are probably able to detect particles of energy left behind by creatures capable of mechanically creating it, much like we can track a ship’s vapor trail,” Perceptor said blandly. He was the only one in the room who didn’t look horrified. Excluding Brainstorm, who appeared excited, and probably wanted them to catch a specimen as soon as possible.

Megatron shifted his weight and his chair creaked noisily beneath him, effectively gathering everyone’s attention without his intent. “How much of a threat do they pose to us?”

“Minimal, in my professional opinion, especially if we approach them already aware of the danger.” Perceptor set his datapad on the table and laced his fingers together over it. “We are larger, better armored, and better armed. And though it pains me to admit, we are also more than accustomed to war and defending ourselves.”

“We owe it to science to investigate these things and learn more about them. Who knows! Their ability to sniff out energy could theoretically mean we could use them to find energon deposits or other important things!” Brainstorm threw his hands into the air and fell back dramatically into his chair. “Imagine it!”

“Right now, I’d settle for surviving an encounter with them,” Rodimus said, some of the pep gone from his voice. He might, also, have edged a bit further from the over-excitable scientist. “How big would you say they are?”

Perceptor shook his head. “I can’t be certain. These could be bites, or they could be teethed cables. Therefore the creature could range from the size of a scraplet to a size equivalent to Thunderclash.”

Silence swept through the meeting room. Megatron cringed, and even Brainstorm visibly deflated in the wake of that revelation.

“On the bright side,” Brainstorm managed weakly. “Scientific advancement.” He wriggled his fingers in front of his face and spread his hands. “It’s worth it.”

Rodimus leaned back in his chair, propping one foot on the edge of the table. “We’re going regardless. This is the first clearer than mumbo-jumbo lead we’ve gotten on the knights. It just means we’re going in locked and loaded.”

A sentiment Megatron could appreciate, and he had to admit, it was refreshing to see this amount of forward thinking from Rodimus. Though it was only a reminder that he would not be armed. He doubted anyone trusted him with a weapon.

It wouldn’t be the first time he’d defended himself with only his fists and his charm.

“If it is at all possible, I would like to examine at least one of the creatures,” Perceptor said.

“Dissect!” Brainstorm chimed in.

“Examine,” Perceptor corrected, giving Brainstorm the iciest look he had in his arsenal no doubt. “But don’t put yourself in danger on my account.”

“Hey, you want a specimen, I’ll get you a specimen.” Rodimus’ shoulders danced in an elaborate shrug, accompanied by a wink.

Minimus audibly sighed. “We shall do our best to safely acquire a creature for further study. Of course, you could always accompany us when we investigate the coordinates.”

“I don’t know about this one here,” Brainstorm said, gesturing to Perceptor with a thumb. “But definitely count me in.”

They hashed out a few more details, nothing concrete, just suggestions for what type of weaponry might be effective against a being which consumed energy or energy-specific fluids. Megatron stared at the holographic image of the bites or whatever they were, a sense of foreboding churning in his tanks.

Then again, that churning had been present since he stepped foot on this ship. Somehow, Rodimus tended to attract the most unusual and dangerous of circumstances. This entire ship was madness, and Megatron felt swept along in it.

Perhaps that explained his desire to form a relationship with the only person aboard who could have been a worst idea than Rodimus himself.

“Okay!” Rodimus clapped his hands together. “Sounds like we got a good plan. Unless someone has any objections?” He looked around the room, waited for all of a split-second, and grinned. “That’s what I thought. Onward to adventure then!”

He pointed toward the door with a wriggle of his spoiler.

Megatron supposed that was meant to be a dismissal of some kind. As did everyone else, as they stood and gathered their things, Brainstorm sticking to Perceptor like an electro-burr, chattering madly at the back of his head. Whether or not Perceptor listened was a matter of debate. Megatron took his time, more than aware he was as much apart from the rest as he was a part of them.

The meeting room emptied, but Minimus lingered, intercepting Megatron before he could escape like the others. Minimus’ mustache quivered. His hands were tucked behind his back. He looked, of all things, nervous.

“Sir, might have a moment of your time?”

Megatron had the strangest feeling he would not like this conversation. But as captain of the ship, he had to engage.

“Yes, Minimus. How can I help you?”

Minimus glanced at the door, where the tail end of Brainstorm could be seen skipping after Perceptor until the door shut behind him. “It’s about Ratchet.”

Yes, definitely a conversation he should have avoided.

“Is it now?” Megatron kept his tone as mild as he could.

“Yes.” Minimus paused, his face creasing with indecision before he boldly continued forward, “Sir, I must admit I am not very skilled at social interaction, but I have noticed the two of you have been… strained as of late. And while there is little I can do to help, might I suggest you speak with Rung for answers as to how to proceed?”

Megatron stared at him. “Proceed?”

“Yes, sir.” Minimus shifted his weight. “While I appreciate your recent dedication to your work, which supersedes even your usual dedication, including going so far as to fix that crooked rivet which was vexing me for so long, I’ve been told that such diligent behavior is usually indicative of personal turmoil.”

Megatron nodded and opened his mouth to speak, but Minimus barged along as though he had to get the words out lest he forget or lose his nerve. Megatron’s mouth snapped back shut.

“The fact that Ratchet is completing his work early is also of concern, especially considering he doesn’t file his reports until prompted. So while I am afraid I cannot be much assistance when it comes to offering advice or comfort, there is a resource available on the ship, should you be willing to take advantage of it.” Minimus paused to vent and Megatron was quite sure that was the most he’d ever heard out of Minimus or Magnus that did not pertain to a seemingly minor issue. “Sir.” He peered up at Megatron, his mustache bobbing above his lip.

Megatron wheezed. He searched for words and couldn’t find them. He cycled a vent, strangled though it was, and found composure buried beneath the echoes of Minimus’ words.

“I thank you for your concern, Minimus,” he said, leaning heavily on manners because the rest of his processor had short-circuited. “But I assure you, there is nothing between Ratchet and I that could explain either of our behavior. I cannot speak for Ratchet, but I find that I rest easier knowing my work is complete.”

Relief flooded Minimus’ field. He visibly sagged from his pose, which was best described as ‘at attention’. “I am glad to hear it, sir.” Minimus smiled.

At least he wasn’t pushing for more.

“Was that all?”

“Yes, sir.”

Thank Primus. Or maybe thank Unicron, because there’s no way this conversation hadn’t been driven by that Pitpawned beast.

Minimus departed, and Megatron vented. That was one conversation he hadn’t expected to have. He still wasn’t sure if Minimus had divined the relationship between Megatron and Ratchet, or if he correlated their behavior and assumed there was some kind of connection, even if he didn’t know what it might be.

He paused and leaned against the inside wall, rubbing his forehead. There was an ache in his processor he couldn’t quite define. He felt unexpectedly agitated, and he couldn’t pin a finger on why. Given their current course straight toward danger both known and unknown might have had something to do with it, but only if Megatron wanted to lie to himself.

He knew good and well the restless stirring in his spark was about Ratchet. He hadn’t expected to get attached. For it to mean anything more than several good overloads. He certainly hadn’t expected to start trusting Ratchet. Part of him always knew it was ephemeral. That it wouldn’t last. Yet, he’d still been surprised when the end came.

He was not so naïve to call it unfair, but the spark was not a rational thing. It railed at the unfairness of the universe.

Megatron gathered up his datapad and the holoprojector Percepter left behind. He might as well research on his own. Avenues of exploration with Ratchet were now closed to him, but he still had the stirrings of something in the back of his processor.

He opened the door and stepped out, focused on his datapad and paying attention to little else. Which was why he’d missed the fact someone was lying in wait for him outside the door. Said someone slid into his path, and Megatron’s peripheral sensors pinged, prompting him to halt. He looked up and blinked. He didn’t immediately recognize the Autobot.

Grey and red, chevroned like Prime’s infernal tactician, but not the one named Smokescreen. He was blue, Megatron was sure of this. He searched his databanks, cycling through face after face, before a name popped up: Bluestreak. A sniper, not a tactician, from Praxus like so many with that frame type. Largely undecorated throughout the war, though he had led a unit once.

“Bluestreak,” Megatron greeted smoothly. He tipped his head. “Can I help you?”

“That depends,” Bluestreak replied, with more attitude than Megatron would have expected given Megatron’s reputation. He folded his arms.

“On?”

“Whether or not you’re going to tell me about Ratchet.”

Megatron frowned. “I’m not sure to what you are referring. If you have any questions about your chief medic, you should direct them to him.”

Bluestreak snorted. “I’ve got his side. More or less. I want yours.” He tilted his head, optics narrowing. “And you’re lucky I’m even bothering to get your side. If I didn’t trust Ratchet so much, this conversation would have started a lot differently.”

“And how would that be?”

“I’d have arrived with security.”

Megatron pinched the bridge of his nose. He stepped back and gestured toward the door. “Do you want to sit inside and talk or–”

“Here’s fine.” Bluestreak pointedly looked to the left and right. “In public. In view of the cameras. There’s no audio, otherwise Ratchet might never forgive me, but I’m pretty sure I can hold my own until security can pry you off me, if you decide to attack.”

Megatron worked his jaw. “I’ve been aboard the ship for months and have yet to hurt anyone. What makes you think I intend to start now?”

“Because mechs don’t change. At least, not that quickly.” Bluestreak looked up at Megatron, not an ounce of fear in his optics despite the fact Megatron towered over him. He gave the sniper much credit for his bravery. “Look, I don’t want lurid details. I don’t want to know what your relationship entails or what it means–”

“Nothing,” Megatron corrected. “As there is no relationship, past and present, save that between a commander and his subordinate.”

Bluestreak snorted. “You and I both know that’s a lie. My point is, I don’t care about any of that. I just want to know your answer.”

Amused despite himself, Megatron arched an orbital ridge. “To what?”

“Whether or not you’re sincere.”

“This again?” Megatron’s head ached. He resisted the urge to rub it, both because he couldn’t, and because it would be a sign of weakness.

“I don’t mean about Ratchet. I already know the answer to that. I meant about your defection.”

Megatron started at him. “I thought that one was obvious.”

Bluestreak leaned forward and rolled his optics. “Oh, it’s obviousyou’re just waiting for the first chance to screw us over. What I’m waiting for is whether or not you’re going to prove me wrong.”

“What makes you think you’re even owed this?” Megatron demanded. “It’s no one’s business but ours.”

“Because I don’t like you.” Bluestreak’s shoulders twitched, like he was trying to move kibble no longer present. Megatron had seen Starscream make a similar motion before. “If it were up to me, you wouldn’t be on this ship. You’d be dead, like you deserve, and the rest of the Decepticons with you. Sometimes, people deserve second chances. Well, you’ve had more than you deserve, and I’m just waiting for the moment you reveal your true colors, so I can take your head off with one shot.”

Megatron stared at him. Bluestreak admitted it all in a flat tone, his optics dead, his posture remaining without threat in it. Like he’d become a completely different mech.

Bluestreak grinned, showing denta. “Lucky for you, it’s not up to me. You’re getting the opportunity you don’t deserve, but that doesn’t mean I have to watch you take Ratchet down with you. I won’t.” He straightened, shoulders going back. “So are you going to answer my question, Captain Megatron, or am I going to have to take my concerns to Ultra Magnus and Rodimus and the head of the security force?”

Chills crept down Megatron’s spinal strut. Looking into Bluestreak’s optics was like looking into the abyss, a great big void of nothing. Megatron didn’t want to know what had caused such a fracture inside Bluestreak. But it terrified him in ways few things did.

“I am as sincere as I can be.” Megatron kept his tone and guarded. “And I have no intentions of hurting Ratchet. Besides, I don’t know if you’re aware or not, but the one who ended that particular not-relationship was him.”

“I wasn’t. But I am now.” Bluestreak’s grin lengthened, and he bobbed on the balls of his feet. “Doesn’t change my question. Or, I suspect, the answer you just gave me.”

Megatron rubbed at his forehead. Bluestreak exhausted him in a different way than Rodimus. He felt as though he’d been walking on the edge of a precipice, and spent the entire time wondering if Bluestreak would push him over, or pull him to safety.

“Was that all?”

Blue optics looked him up and down, like searching for a weak spot. “For now,” Bluestreak said. “Have a good evening, sir. And might I suggest some rest? You look pretty tired.” Bluestreak smiled.

There wasn’t an ounce of sincerity in it.

“Your concern is noted,” Megatron replied, his tone a touch frosty perhaps, but he didn’t believe for a moment that Bluestreak’s concern was sincere.

Bluestreak tipped his head in a parody of respect and backed away from Megatron. “Thank you for the talk, sir,” he said. He spun on a heelstrut and strode down the corridor without a backward glance.

Megatron ground his jaw so hard he tasted sparks. He hadn’t registered Bluestreak as anything more than an annoyance, but now he bumped the sniper to menace. For that had clearly been a threat.

He turned the opposite direction. While returning to his hab was a given, Megatron had no interest in hiding in that small, empty room.

He headed for the library instead. There was always research to be done. Not that he believed it had a point, but at least it kept him from going mad. Trapped on this ship as he was, with no contact to anyone who was remotely on his side. Ravage didn’t necessarily count. Ravage was on no side but Ravage’s.

He’d always been like that.

Megatron’s favorite console, tucked away in the corner with only one way to approach, was not being used at the moment. It served as a perfect hiding spot. Very few ventured in here anyway.

Megatron sat and powered up the computer, fingers rapping over the desktop. There were numerous avenues of exploration laid before him, but his hands took him familiar routes, to familiar pages, to a world he’d only just begun to investigate.

Trust, said every message board and guide and manual. Trust was the single most important requirement for this indulgence. Trust between the dom and the sub was paramount. It had to be absolute.

Megatron slumped in his chair.

Trust was such a difficult concept. It was not something he’d ever held in spades. Not even with Soundwave, who was perhaps the only one he even remotely trusted on any level.

He briefly entertained thoughts of the way things could have been. Megatron, speaking to Soundwave in private, without barriers, without the walls of leadership and subordinate to bind them. Asking for something he dared not ask another, putting his safety into Soundwave’s hands, and believing he’d be taken care of.

It wasn’t completely implausible. Once upon a time, it might have even been possible.

Too quickly, the thoughts morphed into what Megatron already knew to be achievable. They morphed into himself, on his knees, chained, and Ratchet behind him, hands firm and knowledged. His voice, a low, commanding tone. The strike of the flog, again and again, pain and pleasure spiking in response.

And trust.

He will stop if I say so.

And believing it would happen.

Megatron’s hand curled into a fist under his cheek.

Trust, he reasoned, was a many-layered thing.

He flicked his finger across the screen, changing the guide to the next page. Something dark flickered into view. Megatron narrowed his optics, focusing on it.

In the reflection of his monitor, Megatron caught sight of Ravage perched on another console behind him. Which meant Ravage had wanted to be noticed.

Megatron returned to his research. “You’re relieved, aren’t you?”

“I am comfortable, yes.”

Megatron pressed his lips in a brief, thin line. Ravage was always like this, forcing him to clarify when he knew damn well what Megatron meant. “That Ratchet and I are no longer an item,” he said, pushing irritation into his voice.

“Oh, yes. That.” Ravage shifted with a susurrus of sound. “Well, he’s an Autobot.”

“As am I.”

“I don’t think there’s a single crewmember on this ship who honestly believes that. And I include you in that statement.”

Megatron set his jaw. He stared harder at the computer screen, though he didn’t absorb a single word. If he looked hard enough, he could see his own reflection, almost superimposed over Ravage beyond his shoulder.

“You may wear the badge, but that is where the identity ends,” Ravage continued as he rose from his recline, arching his back. “They saw how quickly you abandoned the Decepticons. They don’t believe for a moment you won’t turn around and do the same to them.”

Megatron’s spark curled into a tighter knot. Was this also what Ratchet meant about being unable to trust Megatron? Not just that he’d been Decepticon commander, but also that he’d turned his back on his faction? It would take more than a speech or two to explain himself. Megatron wasn’t entirely sure he could put it into words, unless he simplified it.

He was tired.

“So to answer your question, I’m neither relieved nor sympathetic.” Ravage hopped down from the console, padding silently around Megatron’s seat. “He’s an Autobot medic, and anyway, it wasn’t supposed to mean anything. It was entertainment at best, am I right? It – and by extension, he – doesn’t matter.”

Megatron sat back from the computer, his focus distant. “You’re wrong.”

“Curious. Which of those statements are inaccurate?”

Sadly, not all of them. Not enough to soothe Megatron’s spark.

He rapped his fingers on the desktop, the sharp staccato making Ravage flinch, a petty revenge. “It was not mere fun. Not even at first.”

“It was indulgence.”

“It was necessary.”

Ravage stared at him, his optics as cutting as Soundwave’s visored stare had always been. “Because he was part of the plan?”

“What plan?” Megatron shoved back from the computer, the stool rattling away behind him. “I had no plan. I have contingencies. I have wisps. I have stratagems, but I have no plan, I have nothing. There is no course of action where I emerge victorious in any shape or form.”

He paced around the desk, feeling trapped, though there were any number of directions he could go. Except off the ship, off the Lost Light, away from judgmental Autobots, and medics who couldn’t bring themselves to trust him.

“I lost the war.” Megatron’s hands fisted at his sides, and he stared at nothing. Saw nothing. “In the end, it gained me nothing. What good would it do to start another? What could it accomplish but failure and death and further destruction to the planet and its people?”

“What good?” Ravage hopped on the desk, standing over the keyboard where Megatron had been typing. “You could have tried, Megatron. Rather than abandon us to Autobot mercy, rather than disdain and disown us like our rebellion was nothing to you. You say Soundwave is the traitor, but I look at you, and I can’t see anything but a shadow of the mech who used to be great.”

Megatron’s engine roared. “Death is not greatness. War is not power. We accomplished nothing!” His hand swept through the air, inches from Ravage, not meant to be an attack.

Ravage did not flinch. His hackles rose, armor fluffing out in defensive response.

“You should have led us!” Ravage hissed, claws extending, screeching against the desktop. “If you wanted to try another way, you should have led us to it! Instead you whimper and cower behind an Autobot badge because you think it will protect you, while you wallow in your own guilt.” Ravage’s tail lashed through the air, his armor vibrating with outrage. “We needed you! We have always needed you! You could have led us toward peace and instead we are stuck clinging to the first mech strong enough to assume control.”

Megatron’s ventilations churned. Nausea curdled his tanks. His spark pounded; his processor spun. The empty spaces inside of him ached.

“I can’t do it,” Megatron snarled with far less strength than it should have had. “I can’t be what you or Soundwave or anyone else needs me to be. I am tired, Ravage. I am tired of it all. I can’t save the Decepticons. I can’t save myself. You demand something I can’t give any longer. I am neither leader nor savior. I am failure with blood on my hands and death on my spark!”

Ravage’s audials flattened. His mouth clamped shut, optics burning like embers of accusation.

Guilt surged inside. Megatron forced his tone to calm. He wasn’t angry with Ravage. It would be as if he were angry at the truth.

“I am not worth your loyalty,” Megatron admitted, his vocalizer crackling around the concession, because Ravage was right. He knew this. He’d always known this. “I was a nothing, raging against my fate, and I took you all with me. I promised you all a better life, and all I’ve brought you is madness.”

Ravage leapt from the desk, skulking toward the door. Only he paused, tail hanging low. “Did we die for nothing? Did we sacrifice everything… for nothing?”

“No,” Megatron said. “It was still worth it. To fight.” He worked his intake, over a lump. “But I should have found a better way.”

Ravage’s biolights flickered before going fully dark. “The medic is right,” he said, his voice echoing in the dark. “It’s too much of a risk to trust you.”

He vanished into the shadows, leaving Megatron alone. Ravage’s words bounced back and forth inside Megatron’s head.

He wondered if this was it, if this was the moment he lost Ravage forever. Would the cassette ever return to his side? Did he still consider Megatron someone worth trying for? Or was Megatron alone? For the first time, in a long time, was he finally alone?

Megatron slumped back into his chair and buried his face behind his hands. The computer monitor reflected back at him, aglow with information he’d never use. It didn’t matter if it involved his personal relationship with Ratchet, or escape from a certain doom, none of it was any use.

He was trapped.

* * *

[IDW] Walking the Wire 07

Fortunately, there was always a distraction to be found on the Lost Light. The ship was in a state of constant activity, and there was no such thing as boredom.

Ratchet did what he always did. He buried himself in work. He locked himself in the morgue and set to examining the scout corpses again. He’d had an idea which might shine a light on the quandary – literally. Sometimes, different wavelengths of lights could reveal things you weren’t expecting to see.

It was actually First Aid’s idea, he of the creativity, so Ratchet had to give him credit. Without any patients to see, First Aid joined him, and they went through a series of wavelengths before they found one that worked.

Ultraviolet.

“What is that?” First Aid asked, his voice fascinated and horrified in equal measures. Ratchet couldn’t blame him. Both emotions rattled through his spark as well.

Ratchet peered at the serrated, roughly circular marks blooming into view on the corpses. They were tiny to start with – tiny on the mech they’d found dead in his suite. The marks increased in size until the largest of them were on the captain. Weirder still were the pockmarks within the circles – three across the top and two along the bottom.

“If I had to guess, I’d say they were bites.” Dread pooled heavy in Ratchet’s tanks. He’d spent enough time on Earth to see a similarity between these and the marks caused by certain invertebrate creatures.

“Bites?” First Aid repeated. Color drained from his faceplate. He clutched the lamp like it was a lifeline, taking a visible step back from the corpse. “Scraplets?”

Ratchet shook his head and pulled out a ruler. “No. Scraplets remove perfectly circular chunks of metal. The bite edges are smooth and don’t have these inner prongs.” He frowned. “Also, there’d be a lot less left if they’d been consumed by scraplets. We probably wouldn’t have found corpses. Whatever did this drained them of energon. And I’d guess they did it quickly.”

First Aid glanced uneasily at the other corpses, and slid a step closer to Ratchet. “You don’t think they – it – are still inside them, do you?”

“I doubt it. These mechs have been dead a long time.” Ratchet recorded the bites in his datapad along with all of the other details he’d noted. He’d have a group go over his data – specifically, Perceptor, Rung, Rewind, and Skids.

Surely someone recognized the bites.

“Of course, we’d be just unlucky enough to have picked up some kind of parasite that can force itself into stasis when there’s no ready food supply, wouldn’t we?” Ratchet grumped and tossed the datapad onto an empty tray.

It clattered off the other end, knocking several tools down along. It hit the floor with a loud crunch of the display casing.

First Aid nudged the datapad with the tip of his foot. “So,” he said, composure gathered around him all of a sudden, “Something tells me that little throw wasn’t because we may or may not be carrying a deadly parasite.”

Ratchet pinched the bridge of his nose. “Aid–”

“You’ve been tetchy all morning,” First Aid pointed out as he clicked off the lamp and set it aside. He crouched to pick up the datapad. “And I mean, tetchier than usual, which is already maximum grump as it is.”

Ratchet snatched the datapad from First Aid’s hands, and his successor gave him a pointed look. “So?”

“So you want to tell me what’s wrong, or am I going to have to drag it out of you?” First Aid asked. He pushed his field at Ratchet, modulating it to be warm and comfortable, just like he should for a troubled patient.

You can trust me, it said.

Absolutely not.

“There’s nothing to talk about.” Ratchet buried his face in his datapad and reviewed the information he’d already collected. Anything to avoid this conversation, honestly.

Five corpses drained of their fluids. One crashed scout ship, also dry of energon, though the hydraulic and coolant lines had still been flush, albeit a bit congealed.

Wait.

The scout ship had been drained, too?

Could whatever killed the crew had also caused the ship to crash? Had they brought the parasite with them, rather than picking it up on the planet where they’d landed? Was it even a parasite? Or were these marks more the result of some infection like cosmic rust?

“Right. Absolutely nothing,” First Aid said with a sigh. “Which is why you’ve spent every moment of your free time the last few days in the medbay, when you’d finally stopped doing that a few weeks ago.”

Ratchet narrowed his optics. “Are you implying something here?”

“Outright insinuating.” First Aid’s optical band brightened, as his field flexed out with amusement. He leaned forward as though he intended to say something else, until his head tilted ever so slightly, his attention beyond Ratchet’s shoulder. “Oh. Megatron’s here.”

It felt like a punch to the tanks, for all that Megatron arriving in the medbay was a daily occurrence. Ratchet went stiff and focused on his datapad. He didn’t look over his shoulder at Megatron striding inside. He didn’t try to admire those long, powerful legs or those broad shoulders or the glint in Megatron’s optics.

Ratchet didn’t miss what they had. It was over for a reason.

“He’s just here for his energon.” Ratchet made a few nonsense notes with his stylus, his spark throb-throb-throbbing. “Go get it for him, will you?”

“No need. Medibot took care of it,” First Aid said. He hooked a stool with his ankle and dragged it closer, dropping into it. “Though it’s curious, you know, since you’ve been personally giving Megatron his poison for the past few months.”

Ratchet narrowed his optics over the edge of his datapad. “If you have something to say, spit it out.”

“You’re such a ray of sunshine today,” First Aid grumbled, but there was humor in the tilt of his head. “And I’m not saying anything. I’m making an observation. A correlation, if you will, between your current behavior and your past behavior and the fact Megatron looks disappointed to be handed a cube by Medibot.”

“He’s not disappointed. He’s disgusted. You know that stuff tastes like slag.” Ratchet rolled his shoulder and vanished behind the datapad, doodling in the margins of his notes.

It took him far too long to realize he was sketching the shape of Megatron’s head.

“I don’t think that’s the only reason.” First Aid planted his elbow on the medberth, near the deceased mech’s right shoulder.

Ratchet rolled his optics, erased his last work, and tucked the datapad away before the incriminating evidence could be viewed by anyone. “Pah. Why do you care anyway? He’s Megatron.”

“He’s still a member of the crew. And a patient.” First Aid’s visor dimmed. He pushed to his feet and stood near one of their autopsied guests. “As much as I despise what Megatron’s done and what the war has cost me. I know I should hate him with every plate of armor on my frame, but a part of me really hopes he’s sincere. I want to believe he is. Because the war is over. I want it to stay that way.” He braced his hands on the edge of the gurney, shoulders set, field heavy.

Ratchet sighed. “Me, too, kid. I think we’re all tired of war. Even Megatron.” He patted First Aid on the shoulder, thinking to offer comfort.

“Tired of losing maybe.” First Aid snorted and looked up. “Though I guess I don’t need to believe in him half as hard as you do.”

“What the frag are you talking about?”

First Aid straightened and started gathering up tools. “You should be a little more careful when you’re buffing out paint streaks. You keep missing a few.”

Ice drizzled through Ratchet’s spark. He staggered, hip hitting the edge of the gurney. “You– I–” Words failed him.

“I’m not judging,” First Aid said. He turned and dumped the tools into a disinfection station. “I mean, you could have chosen better than Megatron, I guess. But since you’ve been so much better, I didn’t want to say anything.”

“Better?” Ratchet echoed, feeling faint. He supposed he wasn’t as discreet as he thought.

“More engaged? I don’t know.” First Aid fiddled with a magnifying scope, pretending to examine it. “Certainly more than you have been since Drift left. And yes, I know. That was purely platonic, but the point is, you needed someone – friend or lover – and I never guessed that someone would be Megatron, but if it works, it works.”

Ratchet swallowed a sigh. “Worked,” he corrected. There was no point to denying it anymore. “If you’re going to be accurate.”

First Aid nodded slowly and set the magnifying scope aside. “Yeah, I thought it might be something like that.” He turned to face Ratchet, offering his field as well, still modulated for comfort as it had been before. “You want to talk about it?”

“No.” Ratchet scooped up the samples he’d collected earlier, tucking the entire crate under his arm. “I’m going to get this info to Perceptor and Rewind, see if they recognize the marks. I don’t like mysterious pathogens, and I want answers.”

First Aid was a good friend, and an even better protege, but Ratchet wasn’t interested in poking at wounds that hadn’t even started to mend. He especially wasn’t thrilled with the idea of discussing said wound with First Aid. This was a little too personal for Ratchet’s comfort.

“If you change your mind–”

Ratchet shook his head. “I won’t.”

“But if you do.”

“I know where to find you,” Ratchet said. He keyed his code into the door so it would open, a whoosh of fresh air (comparatively speaking, it at least didn’t smell of decaying metal) slapping him in the face.

He paused, however, because of all the ways he expected this conversation to go, it had turned out like none of them. Ratchet had been underestimating a lot of mechs evidently.

“Thanks, Aid,” Ratchet said. “For not judging, I mean.”

“What’s there to judge?” He assumed more than saw First Aid’s shrug. “The war’s over, isn’t it? We’re all just trying to figure out who we are now.”

And I’m apparently a coward, Ratchet thought sourly, and he left.

~

Ratchet fully intended to head to Perceptor’s lab.

Somehow, he found himself sidetracked and walking into Swerve’s instead. It was relatively quiet inside, this being the middle of what they perceived to be day-shift. There were only about a dozen or so mechs scattered around the room, either sitting alone or in small, quiet groups. Ratchet found a seat at the bar, and Swerve was there in an instant, grin in place.

“What can I get ya, doc?” he asked, with evident false cheer. Kid was a master of it.

“Something that better be a lot bigger than that shot you taunted me with before,” Ratchet grunted.

“Seriously. You’re never going to let me forget that, are you?” Swerve’s light shifted behind his visor. “It was months ago, doc. Talk about someone who can hold a grudge.” He turned around, hands moving as he pulled bottles from the shelf, dumping splashes into the same cup.

Primus only knew what Ratchet would end up drinking.

“Is this seat taken?”

Ratchet looked up and managed a grin for one of his favorite mechs in the universe. “I was saving it for you.” He patted the empty stool beside him. “Have a seat. What are you up to today?”

“Taking over for Swerve in a bit. Says he has a date.” Bluestreak eased into the stool, looking so much better now than he did during the war. Peace suited him. Well, peace and thousands of hours of therapy.

“Really? With who?”

“None of your business,” Swerve said as he set a cube in front of Ratchet, the swirl of colors nearly hypnotic. Ratchet resisted the urge to scan it for toxins. Surely Swerve wasn’t that stupid. “Thanks for coming in, Blue. I owe you one.”

“Twenty,” Bluestreak corrected. “But who’s counting?”

“You apparently.” Swerve snorted and slid something to Bluestreak as well, though it appeared to be regular mid-grade, perhaps flavored with one of his many non-alcoholic mixes.

Bluestreak beamed. He took a deep sip of his drink. Ratchet peered into his own. Was it toxic? Was it poison? Dare he try it? Had Swerve used a little bit of everything intoxicating in his possession? Was he trying to make a point?

Ratchet picked up the cube, tilted it left and right. He watched the glitter dance in the suspension. It smelled sweet to a tentative sniff.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Bottoms up.

Ratchet tipped the cube back and drained half in one go. It sludge-dripped into his mouth, landing with a sizzling plop on his glossa. It was sour, so sour, and Ratchet swallowed in a hurry. He grimaced as it seeped down his intake, kind of tingling and burning at the same time.

Yeah. He couldn’t wait until it filled his tanks. He prepped an emergency purge just in case.

“So.” Bluestreak leaned his elbows on the counter, shoulders hunched, and gave Ratchet a pointed look. “How are you?”

Ratchet snorted. “I’m amazing,” he said. “Which is why I’m sitting here drinking a questionable concoction of Swerve’s.” His tank warmed, liquid gurgling a bit, but it stayed down.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Bluestreak nudged him with a shoulder. His field slid warm and liquid against Ratchet’s, offering the same comfort Ratchet had rejected from First Aid. Blue, though. Bluestreak was a different story.

“Who is he?” Bluestreak asked.

“Huh?” Ratchet feigned ignorance.

“The mech warming your berth,” Bluestreak clarified with a roll of his optics. He fiddled with his mid-grade. “There’s gotta be someone because I know you, Ratchet. I know what things are like. And since you didn’t call me when I came aboard, there’s gotta be someone else.”

“Think you’re that attractive, do you?” Ratchet sipped a long drag of his mysterious concoction. If anything, it burned even more this time around.

Bluestreak laughed. He leaned against Ratchet’s side, their armor sliding together warmly. “Mmm. I know I am,” he purred. “So. Who is it?”

“No one important.” Like the Pit Ratchet was going to tell Bluestreak his lover was not only a former Decepticon, but the commander of them. He was not likely someone to be as understanding as First Aid. Not after what he’d lived through.

Bluestreak loathed Decepticons. Though given the fact he’d signed up for the Lost Light knowing he was aboard probably meant he was on a road to recovery in that aspect.

“I doubt that. If he weren’t important, you wouldn’t be here feeling like someone broke your tool kit.”

Curse Bluestreak and his extraordinary sensitivity to energy fields. That ability had always been the bane of their friendship, and another reason Ratchet never accepted Bluestreak as anything more than a casual playmate. If a mech couldn’t occasionally lie and keep his secrets, then what fairness was there in the world? Honestly. Couldn’t a mech sulk and pretend he wasn’t in peace?

Ratchet sighed and downed the last of the sludge. The first half had finally reached his tanks, and it sat there like a hot, lead weight, sending little surges of arrhythmic charge through his lines. The rest would probably make him dizzy. Good thing he wasn’t driving home.

“It’s unimportant because it wasn’t long enough to be labeled important, and it wasn’t a relationship anyhow,” Ratchet said. His glossa felt a little numb. He rolled it around in his mouth, pressed the tip to his denta.

Bluestreak took the empty cube away from him, and replaced it with his own midgrade. “Here, wash whatever that is out of your mouth. I think Swerve put a drop or two of dweller venom in it.”

“Of course he did,” Ratchet groused. Dweller venom wouldn’t kill in that volume, but it would make one tingle and feel more intoxicated than you actually were.

Ratchet sipped at the cube. Ah, he could feel his glossa again. Good news.

Dweller venom. Dweller venom. There was something about it that nagged at the edge of Ratchet’s conscious. It sounded important, though he couldn’t put a finger on why. His thoughts swam in a sea of unidentified engex. And now, dweller toxin. Great.

“You’re going to have a Pit of a headache in the morning,” Bluestreak sighed. He hop-scooted his stool a little closer, so they were plating to plating. “Want to talk about it?”

“No, I don’t, Aid. And stop asking,” Ratchet grumbled. He swirled the midgrade around and around and around. It whirled with a lot of pretty colors. What was it flavored with? Magnesium?

Bluestreak giggled. Only he could pull off a giggle and make it sound endearing rather than aggravating. “I’m Bluestreak.”

“I know who you are.” Ratchet rolled his optics.

He nearly rolled right off the stool. He grabbed the counter to catch his balance, the world dipping and swaying beneath him. Bluestreak grabbed his elbow.

“Someone pushed me,” Ratchet decided.

“No, you were stupid enough to drink a Swerve concoction without checking the blend,” Bluestreak retorted, but his voice was warm more than chastising. He squeezed Ratchet’s elbow. “Come on. Off the chair. I got enough time to get you back to your suite before I take over for Swerve.”

“I,” Ratchet straightened and looked down his nose at Bluestreak, “am bigger than you.”

“But you can still walk.” Bluestreak’s lips curved with amusement. He hopped down and tugged Ratchet with him. “Or is there someone else I should call? I know you like the big mechs.” He waggled his optical ridges and managed to look adorable rather than lewd.

“Anyone but Megatron,” Ratchet grumbled and tottered toward the door. Someone was holding his elbow. It was odd.

He looked down. Grey hand. But small. Not Megatron.

Ratchet followed the hand up the arm to the elbow and the shoulder and to a face. “Bluestreak!” he declared. “There you are.”

“Here I am.” There was a queer look on Bluestreak’s face now. Ratchet didn’t have a name for it.

He looked sad and angry. He looked conflicted.

“You’re a good kid, Blue,” Ratchet said, because it was true and because it looked like Bluestreak needed to hear it. “Don’t let anyone tell you different.”

“I know that, Ratchet. Come on.” Bluestreak towed him toward the door, and that seemed like a good idea.

Bluestreak was cute. He also gave the best blow jobs, and Ratchet could rather use a blow job right now. So he toddled after Bluestreak like a well-behaved mech because Bluestreak rewarded good behavior in the best ways.

“It’s a good thing you know where I live,” Ratchet said. “I’m not sure I remember.” His processor was very fuzzy, and his face felt hot. The ground didn’t seem to be where he remembered it to be either.

He couldn’t feel his glossa anymore. He was sure it was there though. He kept wiggling it, pressing against the back of his denta. It kept vanishing though.

Bluestreak’s grip on his elbow tightened. Maybe to keep Ratchet from floating away. He wasn’t sure his feet were touching the ground. “So. Megatron?”

“Ugh. Don’t talk to me about that slagger.” Ratchet sneered. Or tried to. His lips didn’t droop the right way. “You can’t trust him, Blue. No matter how much you might want to. You just can’t. His hands are filthy.”

But never raised in anger, at least, not toward Ratchet. They’d never hurt, except by accident. He’d always been gentle, reverent almost. Never reaching without asking. Never touching without assuming. Cautious, as though one brush of his fingers would cause Ratchet to screech assault and summon security. Knew his place, that one did. Knew it a little too well.

“Well, he’s Megatron,” Bluestreak pointed out as they stepped off a lift and started toward the medical bay.

Ratchet wasn’t sure when they’d gotten on a lift in the first place. The world was a smear of color and sound, and Bluestreak kept morphing into First Aid, which was just odd. He should see a medic about that.

“He’s dangerous,” Bluestreak added

“That’s my point!” Ratchet threw his hands into the air. Well, hand. Bluestreak’s grip on the other was firm. “And I tried to tell him, that’s why I had to walk away. Couldn’t trust him. Couldn’t tell him the truth. Couldn’t deal with the guilt. Selfish slagger didn’t even try to understand.” He huffed, and then vented.

Dizziness swept through his processor. Ratchet staggered. But Bluestreak was there to keep him upright, his field nice and steady, calm like a pool. Calm like it hadn’t been in centuries. Peace suited Bluestreak. It was good for him. Ratchet would tear Megatron’s spark out with his own two hands if that fragger decided to take them back to war, his own desires bedamned.

Oddly enough, killing Megatron would bring Ratchet no pleasure. Or vindication. Or relief. It would solve nothing.

Ratchet sighed. “Worst part, though, is I liked him. I thought. Frag. I dunno what I thought. Something stupid, I’ll bet.”

The thing about memories were that emotions were brighter, stronger, if they were good memories. And darker, heavier, if they were bad. Processors were finicky things. Sometimes, they only focused on the good. They didn’t care about the moralities of the bad.

Bluestreak squeezed his elbow. “You want to believe in people, Ratchet. That’s why you’re the best medic out there.”

They stopped in front of a door. A very familiar door. Ratchet squinted at it and the code panel. He slapped his palm against it, and to his surprise, the door opened. Well what do you know. It was his door.

Bluestreak guided him inside, and Ratchet followed because Bluestreak was good at giving orders. Especially when those orders involved the berth which was where Bluestreak was heading. Excitement surged in Ratchet’s spark. It had been ages since he and Bluestreak had a tumble. It was about time. He’d missed it.

“Lay down,” Bluestreak said. He used the firm tone which never failed to send shivers down Ratchet’s spinal strut, mostly because you never expected that kind of dominance to come out of a mech so cute.

“Okay,” Ratchet said.

He climbed into his berth. His backstrut creaked and twinged. His berth was comfortable, but it was large and empty. It was missing something. He could have sworn there was supposed to be someone next to him.

“Bluestreak?” He blinked, the world hazy, like he was seeing through a long, dark tunnel. “You staying?”

“Sorry. Wish I could.” Fingers wrapped around Ratchet’s hand, tucking it back against his frame. “I don’t envy you in the morning for sure. I’m going to give Swerve a piece of my mind, putting that junk in your drink. He knows better.” Bluestreak’s engine growled.

Ratchet chuckled. Bluestreak was so cute when he was angry. “Wish you could stay,” he said. His free hand patted the empty berth. “Supposed to be someone here.”

“So you’ve said.” Bluestreak sighed and pressed a kiss to Ratchet’s knuckles before he leaned over the berth and brushed his lips over Ratchet’s chevron, too. “He doesn’t deserve you.”

Ratchet wriggled into the comfort of his berth. It really was very nice. It left the world less spinning and more stable. Recharge was probably a good idea right now.

“Going to recharge now,” Ratchet murmured.

“Good.” Bluestreak squeezed his hand again. “I just want you to know that if he hurt you, Ratchet, I’m going to kill him. You know I can.”

Ratchet’s spark clenched. Yes, he did. He wished Bluestreak never learned, but such was the way of war.

“It’s okay. No one hurt me.” Ratchet patted Bluestreak gently on the cheek. Or he made a valiant attempt, at any rate. His hand wasn’t obeying him anymore. “Promise. I hurt myself. That’s the way it goes.”

Bluestreak sighed and repositioned Ratchet’s hand at his side, patting it gently into place. “Recharge, okay? I’ll send someone to check on you later.”

Ratchet hummed. The world was already getting soft and wispy around him, his frame sinking more into the berth. He was floating again, and it was oddly soothing.

He didn’t hear his door open and lock behind Bluestreak. He did, however, notice the lingering sensation of loneliness.

It followed him all the way into recharge.

~

Ratchet onlined and immediately wanted to die.

He groaned and tried to roll over, but his limbs didn’t want to obey him. One arm flopped over his frame, hand slapping him in the face.

Ow.

“Well, well, well.”

The soft-spoken voice felt like knives to Ratchet’s sensory suite. He quickly shuttered his optics and let out a pitiful groan.

“Let me die,” he croaked.

Rung chuckled, and the bed dipped beside Ratchet. “Here. Drink this.” Something nudged against his lips.

Medical grade by the smell of it. There was no mistaking the flat, tasteless odor. Ratchet grimaced. It would be the best thing for him right now, but it tasted awful.

He lifted his head, and that sent a spike of pain through his spinal strut. Ratchet endured, lips prodding at the edge of the cube until he managed to tilt it, the thin energon pouring into his parched mouth. He swallowed a few mouthfuls, much to the regret of his churning tank, and gladly sank back into the comfort of the berth.

“Swerve is dead,” Ratchet muttered. He offlined his optics and tried to stop the world from spinning.

Rung’s fingers gently stroked over his aching head. “The story as I hear it is that you drank whatever he put in front of you. Not a wise decision.”

Bluestreak, that little traitor. Of course he’d told Rung. It was sweet of him, to look out for Ratchet like that, but by Primus, he didn’t want to start his morning with another lecture about his drinking habits.

Ratchet growled and blindly reached out, grinning as he hooked both hands on Rung’s smaller frame. He tugged and turned all at once, managing to enfold Rung in his arms and trap him between the wall and Ratchet’s greater bulk.

Rung squeaked, a most undignified sound, and made it all worth it.

“If you wanted a cuddle, you could have said so,” Rung admonished.

“Too much effort.” Ratchet sighed.

Rung was a comforting presence, but not the one Ratchet wanted, he realized sourly. Rung was small and compact in his arms, angles in all the wrong places, and far too round. He smelled like ancient things and bonding glue and basic polish.

He wasn’t Megatron.

Ratchet ground his denta, and then stopped because that made his processor ache too much. “You give bad advice.”

Rung, who had wriggled around until he got comfortable, stroke Ratchet’s arm. “You’ll have to be more specific. To which advice are you referring?”

“Don’t play word games with me. I’m too hungover for that,” Ratchet grumbled.

Rung’s field modulated and spread out over his, soothing down the ruffled edges. “Ratchet, I’m not going to take responsibility for a choice you made. Or the way you tend to extrapolate everything.”

Ratchet pressed his lips together and sank into a sullen silence. Yes, he was aware of his immature behavior. No, he did not care. Even ancient medics with one foot in the grave were allowed to brood every once in a while.

“I take it you ended things with Megatron rather than reveal the truth about the fool’s energon?” Rung’s tone was light, but there was something of chastisement in it.

Ratchet squeezed Rung tighter. “It was for the best.”

“For whom?”

“Both of us.”

“Which is why you felt the need to drink a strange concoction of Swerve’s. And why Megatron has been moping around the ship like someone told him Starscream has now usurped the Decepticons.”

Ratchet snorted a laugh at the idea of Megatron moping about anything. Why would he be disappointed? It was a game all along, wasn’t it? Wasting time with Ratchet while he schemed about how to avoid his death sentence.

“He’s Megatron,” Ratchet mumbled, his standard reply, because it should explain more than enough to everyone. And see how it easy it was for Bluestreak to get it? Why didn’t First Aid? Why didn’t Rung?

“He’s a sum of parts, Ratchet. Not a single title.”

Ratchet lapsed into silence. His processor throbbed. He owed Bluestreak an apology, and probably lots of damage control as well. He still needed to get that data to some scientists who might be able to make heads or tails of it. He had to be on shift soon. He couldn’t lay here in agony. He was the Chief – well, no. That title would be First Aid’s. He was a medic.

“If you wanted a relationship with him, why did you end things?” Rung asked, poking at an open wound because that was what he did.

“It wasn’t a relationship,” Ratchet snarled. He pulled away from Rung and sat up, even though it made his head swim. He groped the nightstand for the cube Rung had brought him.

Rung turned over to face him. “Wasn’t it?” he asked with an arched orbital ridge and that knowing tone to his voice grated on Ratchet’s patience. And Rung knew it, too.

Ratchet glared. “Don’t give weight to something that doesn’t deserve it.” He sucked down half the medical grade. “And don’t psycho-analyze me about it either.”

Rung frowned, and the way his orbital ridges drew down made him adorable. “You know that’s more Froid’s area of expertise than mine.” He reached for Ratchet’s hand and clasped it between his own. “May I offer some advice?”

“You know I respect your opinion,” Ratchet sighed.

“Then listen to me.” Rung squeezed his hand, and the weight of his stare behind his glasses was unyielding. “Ratchet, beneath the bluster and the age and the crippling fear of becoming obsolete–”

Ratchet rolled his optics. “Wow. Thanks.”

“Let me finish,” Rung said as he sat up and shifted to sit beside Ratchet, his feet dangling over the edge of the berth. “Beneath it all, you are one of the kindest, most forgiving, and loyal mechs I have ever had the pleasure of befriending. If you saw something in Megatron worth loving–”

Ratchet choked on his next ventilation. “Loving!?” he spluttered.

“Loving,” Rung repeated. “There are different kinds of love and you know it.” His field rippled inward, like a second embrace. “And if you saw it, then I most certainly believe it is there. And if it is, then is that not worth pursuing? No matter the risk, whatever it may be?”

“Are you trying to tell me to use the power of love to reform Megatron?” Ratchet asked, unable to hide the bewilderment in his voice, because that was ridiculous. It was the stuff sparkling tales were borne of.

Rung burst into laughter. “Certainly not.” He shook his head, shoulders bobbing up and down. “Primus, the very thought. No, any reformation in Megatron can only come from Megatron himself. I only meant that if you saw something in Megatron you could love, don’t be so hasty to throw it away because of what you’re afraid it might mean.”

Ratchet slid away from Rung’s embrace and off the berth, wobbling a little on his feet. “Fine,” he said with a scowl. “But that still doesn’t solve the issue of my very real ethical predicament.”

“That is an answer only Rodimus or Ultra Magnus, preferably the latter, can give you.” Rung followed him off the berth. “You might consider speaking with Xaaron as well.”

No thanks. The less who knew about the relationship the better. Ratchet had already told two more than people than he wanted. His scowl deepened. He rubbed at his forehead.

“Which means you also have to decide if you can live with them knowing about the truth,” Rung added as he pulled a polishing cloth out of subspace and offered it to Ratchet.

“I’m not ashamed of it,” Ratchet retorted, alarmed to find himself feeling so defensive. “It’s just irritating. Do you know how much people on this ship gossip?” He snatched the cloth from Rung’s hands. Apparently, he’d drooled on himself during his recharge. Gross.

“I’m aware.” Rung leaned against the edge of Ratchet’s berth, hands folded on his lap. “I also know that gossip has never bothered you. I suspect your protests now are based on guilt rather than embarrassment.”

Ratchet sighed. He didn’t deign that with a rebuttal because Rung was right. Ratchet didn’t want to admit it.

He sank into a chair, burying his aching head behind his palms. He was too tired to think rationally. He’d gone around and around in circles about it. He didn’t trust Megatron, but he wanted to. He wanted it to work. He wanted something real, but he didn’t know if it was real, and he didn’t know if there was a point in asking. He didn’t know if he was brave enough to try.

Rung rested a hand on his shoulder. “Megatron is not the only one who deserves a chance to start over.”

Ratchet cycled a ventilation. “I know. Primus help me, but I know.” He worked his intake. Vented in and out. “I sure hope I don’t send Ultra Magnus into a processor lock over this.”

Rung chuckled. “He’s a lot stronger than you think. If there’s anyone who’s going to have a reaction, it’s Rodimus.”

Ratchet winced. His relationship with Rodimus had been strained, even more so as of late, especially once the news of the truth behind Drift’s exile emerged and the votes had been cast. Rodimus would only see this, this thing between Megatron and Ratchet, as another form of payback from Ratchet. No doubt he would.

Ratchet’s head ached even more.

Primus help him.

****

[IDW] Walking the Wire 06

Rewind had indeed come through for them.

Megatron stood on the bridge, scrolling through the dozens of coordinates on a datapad, only half of which they’d matched to legitimate locations. They were spread all across the universe, some within a few weeks travel, others requiring quantum leaps of such energy, they couldn’t possibly make it.

They were, of course, heading for the one shining bright and true in the middle of the Hyades Cluster. But the others held promise as well. Possible locations where the Knights of Cybertron, or at least their associates, could be found.

The scout ship had been a gold mine of information.

They’d destroyed it as a matter of course. Once they finished stripping the computers of all relevant data, and removing the crew to the Lost Light – they’d found a fifth member in a recharge berth in the crew quarters. Megatron was of the mind they didn’t leave anything behind for potential enemies to find.

Fortunately, Ultra Magnus agreed.

They let Whirl pull the trigger, the heli obnoxiously happy as he took aim and fired, obliterating the small ship in a matter of seconds.

The deceased Cybertronians were currently in storage in the medbay. Ratchet had finished his autopsies, but found nothing to indicate their cause of death. He’d determined they died due to complete energon loss, but wasn’t sure what had caused the energon loss.

Unanswered questions made Megatron uncomfortable. Especially when Rewind discovered the point of origin of the scout ship matched the very same coordinates from their original course.

Whatever waited for them in the Hyades Cluster had possibly contributed to the death of the scouts. Megatron was all for waiting until they had more information. Rodimus thought it best they confront, possibly destroy, a potential threat.

Megatron had, once again, been outvoted.

He ground his denta and swept his finger across the screen, saving the data. He downloaded it to his personal datapad just as Ultra Magnus strode onto the bridge, precisely on time. If it had been Rodimus, he’d have strolled in as late as he wished.

Thank Primus for small favors.

“Good afternoon, Megatron,” Ultra Magnus greeted with a tip of his massive head. Though ‘afternoon’ was relative, given their thirty-six hour days and lack of rising or setting sun to mark the passage of time. “All’s well, I presume?”

Megatron tucked his datapad under his arm. “You presume correctly. We hold steady to our course and are set to arrive within several day’s time per previous estimates.”

Ultra Magnus stepped up to the command console, logging himself in and logging Megatron out. “Is there anything you wish me to handle while I’m on shift, Captain?”

His professionalism was so refreshing, even if it did border on obsessive. Often, Ultra Magnus reminded Megatron of Soundwave, who he could always count on to be capable and responsible. His most reliable officer, truth be told.

“Nothing of immediate concern.” Megatron glanced around the bridge, ensuring he hadn’t missed anything, before he dipped his head. “Have a good shift, Magnus.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Megatron left, at first intending to head to the library, but adjusting his course to return to his quarters instead. Research in the onboard library had proven fruitless. Why bother wasting time there?

It was quiet.

There were no groups of mechs playing irresponsible games in the halls. Nor were there trios of inebriated singers wobbling way back to their habsuites. Something rattled in the vents. Perhaps Skids. Perhaps a rodent hitchhiker.

The Lost Light hummed around him, steady onward to its destination.

Ratchet was currently on shift in the medbay. Megatron knew this because he’d checked. Not because as captain he ought to know who was available, but because he’d wanted to see if Ratchet was free. He wasn’t quite sure why.

Embarrassment lingered around the edges. He’d used his safe word last night. It had been too much for him. The flare of unease sharply bursting into panic at the mere touch of Ratchet’s hand to the back of his neck. The memory of needles defiling him, Trepan grinning over him, triumphant and sinister.

Megatron felt he should have been stronger. But there had been no pity in Ratchet’s optics, no mockery in his field. He’d stopped because Megatron told him to, and he pushed for nothing more. It had sent Megatron’s spark into a roil of emotion.

Megatron was not a mech experienced with the concept of trust. That he should offer any to Ratchet left him unsteady.

He keyed himself into his habsuite, absently noticing the distinct lack of offensive graffiti this time around, and slipped into the dim. He paused, as he always did, sweeping inside with several sensors first. One could never be too careful on a ship full of Autobots.

Ravage slunked out from beneath the berth, jaw cracking open in a yawn. He had to have picked that up from the Autobots.

“Enjoy your field trip?” Ravage asked with a languid stretch of his backstrut that should not have been possible.

“Did you?” Megatron asked. He hadn’t seen Ravage sneak aboard the Rodpod and join them in creeping around the scout ship.

However, he was quite certain Ravage had been there. Curiosity was one of Ravage’s strongest traits. He never seemed to lose that need to seek out all information, though he had no one to report it to anymore.

“It was productive,” Ravage answered. His toothy smirk said it all.

Megatron unloaded his compartments into his cabinet, though he kept a datapad on hand. “Anything I might find useful?”

Another long, languorous stretch where Ravage extended his talons, and withdrew them. “That depends.” He sat back on his haunches, tail flicking.

Megatron closed the cabinet, locking it. “On?”

Ravage’s optics narrowed into small slits. “You’re losing your grip, Megatron.”

He touched his Autobrand, but he suspected that wasn’t what Ravage meant. “You’re referring to Ratchet.” Megatron sat on the edge of the berth, leaning forward and bracing his elbows on his knees.

“He’s Prime’s amica,” Ravage reminded him, as if Megatron had forgotten that small detail. Which, admittedly, he had. “He’s the Autobot CMO. He’s the worst choice on this ship to try and manipulate.”

Megatron frowned. “I don’t intend to manipulate him. It’s not a game.”

Ravage tilted his head, audials flicking back. “Isn’t it?”

Megatron clasped his hands together, fingers interlacing. “I am many things, but I’ve never used romance as a weapon. Or friendship for that matter.”

“Tell that to Soundwave.”

Megatron’s optics and his tone flattened. “What?”

Ravage rose, pacing back and forth. “You abandoned him.”

Anger flared in his field. “Soundwave abandoned me,” Megatron snapped. He jerked off the berth, feet hitting the floor with a loud stomp. “His trust in me should have been absolute. He should have understood. He was the one mech who should’ve seen the truth in my spark. He–”

Megatron cut off as Ravage’s ears flattened, and he curled closer to the floor. It wasn’t fear in his optics, but only just. There was wariness. Perhaps a touch of disdain, too.

Megatron vented, his hands forming fists. He stepped back against the berth, cycling several ventilations.

Silence descended.

Ravage crept to the door, standing in front of it. He returned Megatron’s gaze evenly.

“He is only behaving true to his spark,” Ravage said. “We lost the war, Lord Megatron. And when we looked to you for guidance, you became an Autobot. It is you who betrayed him.”

Megatron flinched. Cold sank through his frame, every word hitting like a blaster shot. Worse that Ravage wasn’t completely wrong.

“I am not an Autobot,” Megatron said, softening his voice. “When a world is divided into either and or, if you cannot be one, you must be the other. That is the choice I had to make.”

“If it’s the lie you tell yourself to recharge, it’s no concern of mine.” Ravage rose up on his hindlegs and keyed the door open. It slid aside, and he paused. “But remember, just as you chose to abandon your badge as the lesser of two evils, Soundwave chose to cling to his. And none of us are any better than we were before.”

Ravage stalked out, silent and nigh invisible, the door sliding shut behind him. Getting in the last word, just like his carrier and dear friend. Megatron should not be surprised.

He perched on the edge of the berth. Ravage’s words circled around and around in his processor.

It was not a lie, he seethed. It was the truth.

He’d faced a decision then. He’d looked back on the destruction he’d wrought, and realized that for all he’d done, while yes there was freedom of a sort, they were all still caged, only the bars were made of violence rather than tyranny. There was so much anger, so much hate, so much that would keep them on the path to their doom. They were a dying species. If they continued, they would find their end.

Megatron had taken the Autobrand only because he couldn’t wear the Decepticon brand anymore. It filled him with too much shame. If there was any hope of recovery, of obtaining what they actually sought in the first place, it was without brands entirely.

But becoming a NAIL absolutely wasn’t an option. So Megatron had done the only thing he could. He’d taken the Autobrand for his own. He’d hoped his Decepticons would understand. He’d hoped Soundwave would see the truth in his spark.

Instead, he’d taken this journey alone.

It was fine. It was absolutely fine. Megatron had begun alone, in the dark and the silence, beaten down by rage and violence. He would continue the fight the best way he knew how, even it meant he faced ridicule for it. And he would, as he always did, have a back up plan.

Just in case.

The Decepticons as they were remained Megatron’s pride and joy.

What they had become, however, brought him shame. He’d led them down that path. He still believed much of his earlier actions were necessary. But there was a point when he could have stopped, when he could have let reason lead the way, rather than anger and resentment.

He could have taken Orion Pax’s hand.

Megatron sighed and swept a hand over his head. He slumped onto his berth, the weight of years hanging over his frame like a drapery made of stone. He was tired. He felt he could lay down and recharge forever, and not just because of the Fool’s Energon stealing his energy. He was old, he was falling apart, and there were more dimensional holes inside of him than firmness.

Was it too much to ask for a little peace?

He lay back, folding his arms behind his head. This was his leisure time. He could be doing all manner of things. Nothing appealed at the moment.

Ratchet was on shift, and Megatron still felt off balance from their last encounter. He hadn’t expected to enjoy the pain so much. He hadn’t expected to enjoy it at all.

Now he found himself craving it. There was something in the surrender, something in the way he handed himself over, like a burden left behind. It was intoxicating.

He wondered, too, if he could turn his guilt toward that surrender. If he could offer up his pain as a sacrifice, a recompense. Perhaps it would work. Perhaps not.

Exhaustion tugged at Megatron’s frame. His processor ached. He felt wrung dry, like the corpses they’d found in the crashed ship. Energy seeped out of him. The rigid berth felt as comfortable as a cloud beneath him.

He slipped into recharge without intending to do so.

Megatron’s door chimed.

In itself, this was an odd occurrence. No one came to visit him. Not Ultra Magnus with official business. Not Rodimus to be a bother. Not Whirl or any other Autobot to pick a fight. No one. If Ravage wanted to enter, he could let himself in. There was no reason anyone should be buzzing his door.

The oddity stirred him out of recharge. Had him sluggishly stumbling toward the door, palming it open, rubbing grit from the corner of his optic with the other hand. He had no idea who it would be.

Funny how Ratchet hadn’t factored into his list of potential visitors. They always met at the medic’s suite, on his terms, because Megatron was more than aware of his position, and Ratchet never seemed to notice or be bothered by the fact their trysts never occurred in Megatron’s suite.

“Ratchet?”

“Did I wake you?” the medic asked. One optical ridge arched.

Megatron supposed it was technically the middle of the Lost Light’s day block. It was an odd time for anyone to be recharging.

He peered at Ratchet, who was grinning, but it didn’t reach his optics. Something wasn’t quite right. “I thought you were on shift.”

“Here’s the thing, eventually, those shifts end.” Ratchet rose a little and glanced over his shoulder. “So are you going to let me in or do you want to talk out here?”

Talk. That was never a good sign.

Megatron stepped aside. He ignored the queer sensation of feeling like his territory was being intruded upon. There was an odd sense of vulnerability in allowing Ratchet inside, like he’d allowed the medic see a part of himself he wasn’t sure he wanted Ratchet to see.

The door closed. The air between them felt ten times thicker.

“Talk,” Megatron repeated. “About what?”

“Us.” Ratchet turned in a slow circle, giving a perfunctory scan of the room.

Megatron frowned. “I was under the impression we did not qualify as an ‘us’.”

“We’re some definition of it, that’s for sure, otherwise I imagined all those times I had you in my berth.” Ratchet faced Megatron, still as twitchy as he’d been standing outside the door. “Anyway, definitions don’t matter anymore, because I’m calling an end to it.”

Megatron cycled his optics. “I don’t understand.”

Ratchet scowled. “It’s not a difficult concept, Megatron. We’re over.”

He kept using words like ‘we’ and ‘us’ when he’d been fighting a definition for their relationship the entire time. Megatron couldn’t fathom why he was only choosing now to acknowledge it.

“End. Over.” Megatron tasted the words. Both were foul, unpleasant things. “Interesting that you should use those words when there was never an ‘us’ and the ‘we’ that didn’t exist, never had a beginning.”

Ratchet folded his arms over his chest. “If you’re trying to guilt me into changing my mind, it’s not going to work.”

“No, you seem very set in this decision.” Megatron crossed his arms as well, his armor slicking tight to his frame. “Can I ask why or is that too much like a real relationship for your comfort?”

Ratchet’s weight shifted, plating reshuffling around his protoform as though he couldn’t decide where it should sit. “Does it matter? It’s not going to change anything.”

“Yes,” Megatron replied, alarmed by the amount of hurt echoing through his spark. “It matters to me.”

Something flickered across Ratchet’s face and in his field, too quick for Megatron to grasp. “Look,” he said with a sigh. “I just… the truth is, I can’t trust you. And that means I can’t trust myself.”

Megatron’s denta gritted. “You’re just now deciding this? What changed?”

“Nothing.” Ratchet shook his head, his hands dropping to his sides. “I’ve always wondered when you were going to betray us.”

It hurt, far more than it should have. “Us as in the you and me that doesn’t exist or the Autobots at large?”

“Both. Either.” Ratchet rubbed at his forehead, suddenly looking every bit as old as he was. The dermal layer of his face wrinkled as he closed his optics. “Look. Like I said, it doesn’t matter. I’ve made my decision. This is what I have to do.”

Megatron worked his intake. “Clearly.”

Ratchet glared at him, optics sharp and icy. “Don’t act like you didn’t know this was coming. We started as a mess, it shouldn’t be a surprise we’re ending as one, too.”

“And if I were to call you a coward, would that emerge as a surprise?” Megatron bit out. His denta ground together, his jaw aching.

“Cowardice and having a set of moral principles are not the same thing,” Ratchet hissed. His hands formed fists at his side.

“Ah, so now it’s a morality issue.” Megatron nodded in the way mechs often did when they didn’t actually agree. “But of course. How could I be so blind? You’ve reached the quota of behaviors to activate your sanctified Autobot guilt codex. Now that you’ve had your taste of pleasure, it’s time to bow and confess, is that it?”

Trust, Ratchet had spouted so often. Respect, he’d even claimed. And yet the truth was, here he stood, saying how he was too good to stoop to the lowly level of being with Megatron. Because he had morals. And principles.

Funny how those didn’t stop him at all in the past six months.

“Don’t put words in my mouth!” Ratchet demanded, his voice raised, much louder than Megatron’s had been. He took a step forward, but his field was a thing of leashed violence. “Someone like you, who did his level best to destroy our entire world because it didn’t bow to your demands, can’t begin to understand it.”

Megatron’s back hit the wall before he realized he’d begun to retreat, and he hated himself for that, for the weakness. He was Megatron; he did not withdraw. And yet.

And yet.

In the face of an angry medic/lover/Autobot, his back was against the wall, fury swirling with hurt, the desire to lash out battling with the urge to fix things before they were ruined.

But then.

There was no fixing something that had begun fractured. They were already missing the pieces.

“Fine.” Megatron ground out and shuffled to the side, within reach of his door panel. “Then there’s no reason for you to be here. Being as we have nothing more to do with each other.”

The door whooshed open.

Ratchet stared at him, his face drained of color. His mouth opened, closed, set in a firm line. He eyed the open doorway.

“It might have been wrong,” he began slowly, haltingly. “But it wasn’t a bad thing.”

Megatron snorted. “No. It was definitely a bad thing. We were two mechs who know better, playing pretend. Lying to each other and ourselves.” He pointed to the door. “No more lies.”

Ratchet moved to the door and paused, his hand rapping against the jamb. “It wasn’t all lies,” he said, almost too quietly for Megatron to catch, and then he was gone.

The door shut and locked behind him, wrapping Megatron silence, save for the sound of his vents and hisses of his frame. He stared at the door, fans raggedly whirling, anger broiling inside of him for a reason he couldn’t quite name.

No, he was fine. He’d anticipated this. He should have known. He was fine. He was—

Megatron’s fist slammed into the wall. It gave an enormous thud, but did not fracture. It barely dented, truth be told. That damn fool’s energon. It left him weak and pliant, it gave him hope when there was none. It promised things it could not deliver.

He was not fine.

***

[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.

****