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.
“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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
“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.