At first it had all been very amusing; Knockout’s smart remarks and general disposition of a mech in Megatron’s position, rather than one fetching viles of energon was amusing in more ways than one, and Shockwave was one of the most intelligent mechs he had ever had the pleasure of talking to, despite the fact that the cyclops was a Decpeticon. And the laboratories he was set up with could make a scientist cry from sheer joy.
But it got tiresome rather quickly.
Ratchet found himself slipping into his own mind more so than he ever had done in the past, allowing himself a mental break from the drab, albeit well-equipped, institution-esq environment he was being held prison in. Never before had he been much for daydreaming, not even during the long, cold nights of the old wars, when the field tech had little more than a can of low-grade energon to spare for his own benefit.
But now, even when surrounded by fellow Cybertronians and all the scientific and medical equipment he could dream of having on Earth, he felt further away from home than he ever had, and the overwhelming desire to retreat into his thoughts finally brought him to his knees, metaphorically speaking.
His spark had not ceased to convulse semi-painfully in his chest since he had been taken aboard the Decepticon’s warship, and that fact was the reigning champion of pulling the doctor out of his inner dwellings and forcing him to move, to eat, to work, to do something as long as it distracted him from the pain.
Work he did, even if it was in small 5-klik increments and he accomplished nothing more than keying in another line of equation into the computer. Eating, on the contrary, he had not done since before stepping foot on the ship. It was not as if Megatron had not been a surprisingly generous host, rather Ratchet was never known to eat when he was under such an immense amount of stress.
More than once, the Autobot medic was accused of trying to starve himself and delay progress on the synthetic energon project, however that was far from the case; and to get both Megatron and the Decepticon physician off his back, Ratchet begun hiding the containers of mid-grade energon within an ill-used cabinet. Of course he had not downed a single drop of the energy-rich nutrition, but as long as it was out of sight, the cons seemed sated in the assumption he had consumed it.
There was another paroxysm that shook Ratchet’s torso; an odd, tingling pain that, once it passed, left him feeling hollow. He gripped the edge of the counter he was in front of whilst he refrained from doubling over; trying to keep the spark-related pain from being noticed by Knockout or Shockwave, both of whom were nearby.
Once the pain subsided, he released his vice-grip on the counter and delicately danced his digits over the center of his chestplate, just above where his spark chamber is located. It was both a strange, foreign feeling, but it simultaneously comforted him in some distant, dislocated way. He could not explain it, no matter how many diagnoses he ran through his processor.
Whatever it was, even though it was causing Ratchet consistent pain, both physical and emotional, he felt content enough to leave well-enough alone and revert back into his daydreams to mask the physical afflictions.
His mind was not shy to drifting back home, before Cybertron was a lifeless shell; just him and Optimus earning their pay in the Autobot’s capitol public center. Ratchet a doctor-in-training, and Optimus, then Orion Pax, a records keeper. Life had been good, and in his current situation, the memory brought a warm feeling to Ratchet’s frayed circuits.
His already discrete smile faltered into an atypical frown. Thinking back; it had not been exclusively the two of them…had it?
No, there had always been Megatronus, and wherever he was, Soundwave was bound to be in-tow. Just the memory of them confronting one-another in a civil environment made his spinal strut shiver in disgust.
But things had not always been as they are, once upon a time, Ratchet recalled almost fondly, he had been companions with Soundwave; he hesitated to call such an engagement friendship, but the ghost of the feeling was still there. And in some far-distant corner of his mind, the same feeling still tugged at his spark whenever he had no other choice than to beat-down on the Decepticon communications officer.
Back in the “good ol’ days” things were, simply put, better. And, Primus, did Ratchet want nothing more than to turn back time, to before the Pit froze over and they were stranded on an alien planet, and go back to a better, peaceful time.
“Ngh-“ And Primus dammit all he wanted nothing more than to make the pain in his spark stop tormenting him. It began to worry him after about 2 kliks, considering none of the pains had lasted more than a single klik before; perhaps there was something more serious at play, maybe he was experiencing a spark-palpitation, or a spark-murmur. His processor flew into a tizzy, trying laboriously to create a mental list of his symptoms and where exactly the pain was (regardless of the fact Ratchet could not manage to pinpoint the exact location of his ailment).
Still trying to keep his discomfort hidden, he steadfastly strode over to another countertop and took up a blue-tinted datapad in his shaking servo, the other clamoring over the table before fishing another datapad from a pile of seemingly discarded ones.
It has to be explicable in some way, Ratchet persisted and scanned over numerous screens of information. The worst pain so far brought the medic to a jarring halt as his rapidly pulsing spark seemed to be attempting to escape from its chamber.
A few nanokliks of inescapable agony later, all the feeling began to slowly dissipate within his chest cavity, leaving him relieved but in-taking heavily in an attempt to settle his hotter-than-normal internal systems. Ratchet’s optics were screwed shut as he tried to keep his chassis under control; concentrating on his in-taking as to quell his quaking frame.
Then, in the wake of the crippling and inexplicable wave of pain, a soft, foreign sadness swirled up within him, and warmth within that swelled around his quivering spark and brought back the oddly comforting feeling he had been remarking on earlier. Ratchet was perplexed. He was feeling a lot of different emotions at the time, but sadness was not one of them, not by a long shot. These emotions were not his.
The moment he began to question whose feelings they could have possibly been was the moment in which all the pain flowed out of his frame like water from a colander and a new, refreshing feeling soaked him with familiar, welcomed warmth. In a sudden realization, Ratchet understood.
“What?” The sudden call was unexpected and Ratchet barely restrained his frantic reaction and turned to look at Knockout, who was casting a curious glance his way from across the countertop. The white mech cleared his throat and straightened his back column, throwing up an air of intendance before rushing a few paces to his left and taking up a few viles of prototype Synth-En.
Coming up with a hasty cover-up was little-to-no effort for the older mech, “I was saying that if perhaps I re-evaluate my procedures on prior concoctions I could possibly speed up the manufacturing of the real synthetic energon.” He returned to another station and set up the three containers of pale green liquid side-by-side on top of three separate burners.
He went to work, or what he knew Knockout would assume was work, but in all-reality he was just going to re-heat the mixtures and run a pointless pH test on them just to get the racer off his back. However, even as Ratchet began firing up the burners, Knockout seemed a tad more persistent on this day.
He hummed thoughtfully, “That’s odd,” He began somewhat quietly, “I could’ve sworn you said ‘Optimus’.” There was an inflection to his vocalizer that put Ratchet on edge, even though he had confronted the Decepticon numerous times before.
Almost like a sound from Unicron himself, Knockout chuckled and threw Ratchet into heightened alert. “Hm, that’s cute,”
And that was not something he had expected Knockout to say.
“You miss your leader, your Optimus Prime? Don’t you?” It was more of a statement than a question, but he remained silent after he spoke, awaiting an answer.
In that moment, Ratchet did not fully know what the better answer would be, or if it would even matter. Odds were that the racer was just bothering him for the sake of boredom, and whatever answer he gave would do nothing more than give Knockout a few moments of something to process.
So why not tell the truth.
“Of course I do,” Ratchet murmured, focusing on the energon in front of him as to avoid making optical-contact with the con across from him. “We were friends long before you were born. It would be ridiculous if I was not missing him."
To that Knockout had nothing smart to say; no snarky responses to spit back out, not even an exasperated optic-roll. In fact, Ratchet noted with true interest, Knockout looked genuinely understanding; of course he was feigning disinterest, but that all-too familiar look in his optics spoke pages to Ratchet.
“Knockout,” He called as the racer began to step away. Knockout did stop, and merely turned his helm to listen.
Thoughts mulled through Ratchet’s processor rapidly, running scenarios and results through his head to see if his current course of action would, in all reality, get him anywhere. Because he did not particularly want to start small-talk with the con about his feelings.
“Refrain from throwing your high-and-mighty routine on the defense when I point this out, but you seem to be missing someone yourself. Would I be correct in that assumption?”
Knockout seemed a bit taken aback, optics darting to Ratchet and then away, seemingly keen on not talking for a few long moments before he finally cracked under the intense weight of the silence engulfing the space between them. “I dare say you are correct,” He began, his vocalizer low and careful, “However it is none of your concern, Autobot.” The simple title he pinned to the end was practically hissed, intended as an insulting slur to throw the other off his game.
Ratchet knew better though, knew Knockout well enough to know the physician would rather huff and walk away than portray even the slightest remnants of an abrasive attitude. He had hit a sore spot, and he knew just how to tweak the situation to his favor.
“I mean no harm by it. Did you not just reveal that I myself happen to be missing someone? If I were to mean any distaste by my asking it would be both ironic and hypocritical in a way.” Ratchet smirked in light of his ruse, giving himself a mental pat on the back for such an in-character, not to mention believable performance.
“Though I assume you’ve lost someone,” He pointed out hesitantly, “Someone you cared for greatly.”
Such seemed to be in order when the tenseness of Knockout’s external frame drifted away and left him standing in a less-than proud stance. His talon like digits tapped nervously on his thigh as he visually tried to steel himself for the conversation at hand. Bright crimson optics blinked closed for a few lingering nano-kliks.
Uh-oh, perhaps he had truly struck a nerve within the con, this could not fare well in Ratchet’s favor.
The silence was awkward and a bit overbearing, and Ratchet did not entirely know what to do for the second time that day. It both annoyed and consoled him that Knockout had fallen silent; on one servo it meant he was not saying anything and therefore this “conversation” was going no where, on the other servo it reminded his that even the Decepticons have emotions. Emotions ripe for manipulating.
With the physician out of the way, he could then work on distracting Shockwave; a daunting task considering he was pretty assured in the assumption that Shockwave does not actually have emotions.
“Well I will admit you certainly know how to get a ‘bot in a bad mood, Doctor.” Knockout forced a smirk and drew his characteristic inflection to mask the sore feelings he was harboring. “And yes, I have lost someone, thank you. Within the past solar cycle in-fact.” He paused for a moment, “I’m quite surprised, I thought Autobots would be more apologetic about such a topic. Soundwave seems to have kidnapped the sole exception.” Another smirk, this one a tad more genuine.
Ratchet mentally scoffed, thoughts flying to Wheeljack and Ultra Magnus’ less-than exemplary acts of being compassionate. Knockout was satisfied enough, seeming to have managed the last word, and turned his back once again to saunter to another part of the lab.
Alright now or never, Ratchet mentally buffed up his confidence before speaking out. “Oh right,” He nearly cooed, “It was that big, clumsy fella’ right?” Knockout stopped and his shoulders tensed visually, his spine going rigid and previously echoing footsteps falling silent.
Ratchet pinched his chin between his thumb and index digit and feigned contemplation with an unreadable smirk, “Oh what was his name? Beatdown? Breaker…?”
The red con across from him took a shaky intake, and pushed the breathe out through his vents somewhat noisily, obviously trying to stifle his building agitation. “Breakdown,” Knockout stated, almost in a whisper.
Ratchet heard him but chose to ignore it, “Oh the name is escaping me, but no matter; he was quite the bumbling idiot wasn’t he? I remember when Bulkhead, one of our Autobots that is, kicked the scrap out of Slamdown, er, whatever his name was.” Ratchet nonchalantly returned to stirring the failed batches of synthetic energon in their containers, still heating on the burners in front of him.
He was quite pleased with his work; judging by the silence that fell like a brick between them, that and the fact Knockout had not moved a muscle yet.
“Hah, yes it was quite the sight. It’s almost funny how many times he beat on ol’ whats-his-name ov-“
There was a jarring pain in his jaw and a pressure that sent him stumbling backwards a bit, another stinging hit to the side of his helm; there were no other sounds aside from the dull scraping of metal-on-metal and the persistent ringing engulfing his processor. The flurried attack was over as soon as it began.
His vision was in a haze and it took a while before he began to here the remnants of a muffled argument nearby. With enough focus he regained his visual field and saw Shockwave giving a firm lecture to Knockout, his one hand firmly restraining the physician via a vice-grip on the silver plating of his upper arm.
“Megatron would not have been as lenient as I, Knockout, now go obtain your daily rations.” Shockwave ordered, steering Knockout towards the door of the lab. The red con paused and took a look back at Ratchet, all the intimidation and anger he could muster going into his deathly glare.
“I said. His name. Was Breakdown.” Venom laced each spaced-apart syllable as vines grow up a garden trellis. With that, Knockout yanked his arm free from the cyclops’s grasp and stormed towards the door, regaining his prideful saunter as he went.
Good, I think that worked out well enough. Ratchet smirked in-smite of the pain in his helm.
Shockwave suddenly came into view, closer than one might expect. Without prior warning he latched out with his hand to grasp Ratchet’s neck-column and hoist him more than a meter from the ground. The grasp was not particularly restricting, rather Ratchet went into high alert; his own hands darting up to grip Shockwave’s arm and try to pry himself free.
“It would be wise not to play with the emotions of your Decepticon captors, it is not the logical thing to do.” His rumbling voice came through loud-and-clear past the ringing in the medic’s audials, and he managed a strained nod.
Once Shockwave released him he in-took deeply and delicately kneaded the sore wiring in his throat. He cracked his neck and shoulder-struts before returning to the project at hand, ignoring the toppled-over cases of energon he was dealing with before, Knockout successfully shattered every glass during his minute fit.
For now, he was going to wait until the pain faded and his equilibrium stabilized, but until then Ratchet analyzed his options in the daunting task of distracting Shockwave. “Scrap,” He murmured to himself; this was going to be difficult.
The long running corridors of the Decepticon warship were dark and poorly-insulated, it was nearly impossible to see far beyond the next intersection of hallways. Through the winding maze of walkways, Ratchet moved hastily, servo against the wall just in case his pressure sensors found something his still-fuzzy optical sensors missed.
As he walked, he cursed his luck; he had spent voorns carefully laying out a mental map in his processor, a delicate plan to incapacitate Shockwave and make his escape. The plan had been simple and straightforward; a mixture of heavy acids thrown into Shockwave’s single optical sensor would render him useless long enough for Ratchet to find a way out.
He was not proud of the brutishness of the plan, but he found that effectiveness was better than civility.
However all the planning was for not as events played out and he was left for scrap with the Decepticon beast, Predaking, to act as nothing more than a chew toy to sate the savage’s revengeful spirits. Ratchet, being an intelligent and overall relatable mech, was more than capable of talking Predaking out of his current mindset and convinced him that it had been Megatron to order the destruction of his fellow Predacons and not he.
Now with Predaking on the rampage elsewhere in the ship, Ratchet was stuck nearly-blindly rushing about the warship, trying to find a way out, or at least; a way to get help.
His entire chassis hurt, Predaking had thoroughly beaten almost every square inch of his frame; his entire torso and midsection were throbbing painfully, small gashes all along his silver mid-plating were bleeding down his legs. His left arm had been almost completely ripped-off and now hung lifelessly out-of-socket at his side. To make matters worse, his internal repairs had not been able to heal the consumptions amounts of internal bleeding; energon occasionally surged up into his throat and past his lips, and the stale, copper taste hung in his mouth with no intent of dissipating.
Thankfully, after what seemed like an eternity, Ratchet spotted a communications console mid-hallway and rushed to it. The Decepticon commands and even some of the lettering were foreign to him, but with inherit intuition he successfully opened a two-way communications link with the private sequence to the Autobot frequency.
“Autobot base, come in Autobot base. This is Ratchet-“ He spoke in a hushed tone into the microphone. He smirked when he heard a series of cheers from the base, human and Autobot alike.
The following minutes are filled with a frenzy of inquisitions and exclamations of relief. Miko, Ratchet could easily pick out amongst the noise, could not stop laughing and screeching with excitement. Smokescreen insisted that he kept everything ship-shape while Ratchet was gone and that when he finally returned it would be just as he left it; Ratchet appreciated that more than he relayed.
Once the initial excitement died out and was left to the eager murmurings of the younger Autobots and honorary-Autobots, a broken-sounding voice chimed through the audio waves. “Ratchet…”
The medic’s frame tensed-up just the slightest and a distant smile coaxed the corners of his mouth up. A flow of emotions returned to his hardened spark from just hearing his name, “Hey…hey Optimus.” He cursed the sentiment softening his voice.
“Send your coordinates; I’m on my way to your location.” The Prime finally said, regaining a bit of the commanding tone he was known for in such situations. Without hesitation Ratchet did so, sending the location of the flight deck to the Autobot base’s computer to be relayed to Optimus.
For a few moments Ratchet was at a lost for words, the days he spent aboard the ship as a captive meshed together into one sleepless mess in-which he had been too-nervous to consume anything; he felt the churning of his empty tanks as he walked towards the flight deck. He feared he would purge, though there was nothing in his tanks to be expelled, so he was left with a servo on his aching abdominal region as he trekked through the winding corridors.
Shouting and gunfire could be heard through the heavy metal walls of the ship, but they were distant so Ratchet did not worry himself too much with the fact. All he wanted was off this ship, and to go back to base; back home.
Finally the bay doors came into view and a new hope helped him pick up the pace. But as his servo reached out for the door command panel he stopped, fingers twitching just above the ‘Open’ button.
Who was he to return to the Autobots? Having just been willingly bribed into formulating the Synthetic Energon for Megatron, he did not much feel like an Autobot, and certainly did not feel he deserved to return to team Prime.
Their blind compassion was a crippling thought in Ratchet’s processor; he knew the moment he returned he would be welcomed with open arms. The kids would scatter over to greet him, Smokescreen and Bumblebee smiling and relieved that their ”friend” was home; Bulkhead probably would not hesitate to lift the medic off his feet into a crushing bear hug.
The idea made him smile just a bit, but the crushing thoughts remained; perhaps he should not return, or be so hasty to, or maybe he should go back and destroy the Synthetic Energon formula before its too late. “Surely they’ll be angry at me,” he mumbled in the eerie silence of the corridor. His servo fell to his side and he took a hesitant step backwards.
“Perhaps it would be better if I just-“
He silenced his vocalizer and stared at the still closed door in front of him, “Optimus,” He murmured.
His spark stirred awkwardly in his chest; he wanted nothing more than to be reunited with Optimus, with his Prime...but how could he. The respect, and value he placed on Optimus was an overbearing reminder of how unforgiveable Ratchet’s own actions the past few days had been.
Had he just put up a real fight against Soundwave, he would never have been captured. If he had not bee so foolish enough to willingly give up the synthetic energon formula, then this crippling guilt would not be drawing him back into the bowels of the warship, as apposed to out into the waiting company of his friend.
Ratchet’s optics began to bother him, and he ran the back of his servo over them gently as a depressing realization dawned within him: he did not deserve Optimus, and the Prime deserved a better chief medic, deserved a better friend, and a better partner.
“No,” He whispered to himself. All the feeling in his limbs was nothing but a numb tingle as he forced himself to turn away from the bay doors and begin the long walk back to the bridge.
“Ratchet?” Optimus’ voice was closer, loud and abrasive against the silence. “Ratchet, where are you?” He sounded so…defeated. Ratchet stopped again, his optics angling up with both guilt and sadness. Optimus Prime? Defeated? Because of him…
Ratchet smirked; who was he to be so selfish?
He quickly returned to the door and nearly punched the ‘open’ button; the doors swished open and he caught sight of Optimus, who had a precautionary gun pointed at the door. It only took a moment for the Prime to process it, and he nearly dropped the rifle before he rushed towards the injured mech.
Before he could manage any mangled apologies, Optimus had him in his arms, squeezing his shoulders tightly, and nearly-painfully; the new height-advantage left the Prime’s chin nestled against the top of Ratchet’s helm. He held the other like that for more than a klik, servos constantly moving around the medic’s back-plating, pulling him closer, lifting him up a bit higher, or just holding tight and trying to stay grounded to reality.
“I promise I will protect you next time.” Optimus mumbled, the words slightly obscured due to his face now buried against the other mech’s shoulder.
Almost without hesitation Ratchet added, “And I promise to never betray you again.”
Optimus shook his head, drawing his arms tighter around the smaller Autobot, “No, Ratchet, you did what you had to do-“
“I did what I wanted to do…Optimus.” There was a pause and neither one talked. The Prime began to pull away to talk but Ratchet yanked him back, “I was convinced that giving Megatron the Synth-En formula…would help re-build Cybertron.
I was a fool to listen to him,” Another long pause in which he pulled the considerably taller mech down to optic-level with him. His green-blue optics prickled with coolant, “I beg your forgiveness.”
He expected every negative comment to be said, every brash gesture to be had, and he expected Optimus to shove him away in shock, a betrayed expression on his features. But what he did not foresee was both of Optimus Prime’s characteristically delicate servos to come up and cup either side of his faceplate, his thumbs running just below the lower lid of his optics to wipe away the coolant.
Ratchet’s one useable servo came up and was placed over one of Optimus’ and he felt the minute trembling of his Prime’s sturdy frame. Serene grey faceplates looked down at him softly, “We all make mistakes, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.” His smile was so sincere, and Ratchet could not help but smile back.
With relieved vigor, Optimus pulled his medic closer to kiss him, ignoring the blue blood stained on his lips. But regardless of the ”betrayal” and the absurd setting, it was like any other one they shared, and Ratchet reveled in it for the few lingering nano-kliks.
Optimus pulled away and would not stop smiling, happier than anything to have his medic back. “I swear,” Ratchet chuckled, “Are you sure you didn’t go to the school of passive aggressive mantras?” He joked, and ushered himself onto the tips of his pedes to kiss his Prime’s forehead.
“If they bother you I could always stop,” Optimus said as he began to dial-in the coordinates for a ground-bridge.
“No, no,” Ratchet smiled, “I’ve always found them quite inspirational.”